Bucks County Herald

Talented cast brings quirky characters to life in “Spelling Bee” at Town and Country Players

SUSAN S. YESKE



The cast of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

Town and Country Players in Buckingham is a longtime favorite in local community theater.

The shows held at the theater in the circa 1767 barn on York Road are lively and varied, ranging from comedies to musicals to dramas taken from real life, such as the upcoming show, “The Laramie Project.”

Laramie will be a sobering, heartfelt production, but that comes later. Right now the company is having a lot of fun and showing off singing skills with the musical comedy, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

For those who haven’t seen the Tony award-winning show, it’s set in fictional Putnam County, where 10 competitors – four taken from the audience – take turns spelling increasingly difficult words while also revealing their true thoughts, feelings and childhood angst.

In a vein similar to the ever-popular “A Chorus Line,” each character sings a song or tells a tale of their inner self. As the layers are peeled away, you like each one more and more, and find yourself rooting for them to win.

A talented cast brings to life each quirky character while displaying great comedic timing and excellent singing voices.

Leading off is veteran singer and performer Suzanne Ardite, who has the role of Rona Lisa Peretti, a former spelling bee champion who returns each year as moderator. Sharing her duties is the equally experienced Rusty Flounders as vice principal Douglas Panch.

Both show off excellent comedic timing in their roles, while Ardite gets to display her impressive singing voice.

Bee competitors are Brianna Lynn as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, Brandon Fean as Leaf Coneybear, Kenny Bui as Chip Tolentino, Matthew Ballow as William Barfee, Caitlin Davis as Marcy Park and Dana Joy Carducci as Olive Ostrovsky.

All are delightful in their roles, with Ballow impressive as the know-it-all, Carducci winsome as the neglected child, Bui convincing as the overachieving boy who has troubles with impending manhood, and Fean wonderfully likable as the homeschooler who thinks he isn’t smart.

Davis has excellent comedic timing as the overachiever who also can sing, dance, and do an impressive split. Lynn is charming as Schwartzandgrubenierre, the youngest of the competitors who has to deal with her overbearing fathers.

Veteran performer Anna Doyle does a great job in the role of the “comfort counselor” Midge Mahoney. Not only does she have a great voice, but she is terrific at wrangling reluctant losing contestants off the stage.

Michael Volto, who portrays “Just Joe” Joachim Fawkes, does a fine job of filling a variety of roles in the production.

The show has more than two dozen musical numbers listed, but this is not a show where you are likely to leave singing one of the songs. Many are short, and most are designed to reveal the secret thoughts of the characters.

If there are stars of this show, it is more likely they are director Alana Caraccio, music director Joe Nappi and choreographer Suzanne Safran, plus all of the behind-the-scenes members of the production team.

Town and Country Players’ theater-in-the-round construction presents a challenge, but the performance was seamless and there was no point where the audience felt like they were looking at the backs of the actors for more than few seconds.

“Putnam County” is a fun show, and the theater has an intimate setting that enables the audience to connect with the performers. Go, have fun, and lose yourself in the Bee competitors’ youthful exuberance.

The show continues for the next two weekends. For tickets and information, see the website townandcountryplayers.org.

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