by Catherine Goldberg ’20
The Providence College Department of Theatre, Dance, and Film kicked off this year’s Fall season with the comedic musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The hip production follows six adolescents in the throes of puberty as they express their individual quirks and compete to win first prize in an elementary spelling bee. A naive, yet charming cast of outsiders sing songs written by William Finn and directed by Jimmy Calitri.The musical takes you back to middle school as the characters confront life’s lessons with vulnerability, dignity, and wit.
Jennifer Dorn ’18 plays Rona Lisa Peretti, the moderator of the bee. Her character is the number one realtor in Putnam County and former spelling bee champion. She seems to see an aspect of herself in each of the children’s distinctly nerdy attributes, as she marvels at each of their interesting techniques when approaching the microphone to spell. However, she can be very stern when dealing with Vice Principal Douglas Panch.
Played by William Oser ’19, as Rona Lisa Peretti’s co-coordinator for the Bee, Vice Principal Panch has a hilarious persona, which is exemplified in his seemingly unpredictable reactions towards the children. He becomes increasingly impatient when each of them breaks out into random song or dance, interrupting the proper flow of the spelling bee. He is back as a coordinator after five years of absence due to an “incident” at the 20th Annual Bee. However, he indicates that he is now in a “better place.”
Steven Sawan ’20 plays Mitch Mahoney, the bee’s official comfort counselor and an ex-convict. He wears ripped jeans, a backwards ball cap, and thuds around the stage handing out juice boxes to each student that misspells a word and is eliminated.
The happy-go-lucky, Olive Ostrovsky is played by Aisling Sheahan ’19. Though very sweet and charming, she seems to keep her feelings bottled up as she longs for her mom who has been trying to find peace someplace in India, while her dad hardly notices her.
In the song “My Friend, The Dictionary”, she describes how she has become friends which each of the words she reads in the dictionary, which has brought her to the competition.
William Barfée, whose last name is practically always mispronounced as “barf-ee,” is played by Bryan Sabbag ’18. In the 24th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, he was eliminated due to an allergic reaction to peanuts. His one working nostril adds to his quirkiness, and famous “magic foot” method of spelling brings him to glory at the Bee’s end.
Emily Clark ’19 plays Logainne Schwartandgrubenierre, who is raised by two overbearing fathers who are very adament she wins first place. Her adorable lisp contrasts her wide array of knowledge on politics.
Caprial Harris ’19 plays Marcy Park, who returns from last year’s competition, and nationals where she took ninth place. She speaks six languages as expressed in her monologue song, “I Speak Six Languages.” As an overachiever from a Catholic school, she is pushed to purposely misspell a word in order to alleviate the pressure she feels and get out of the competition.
Leaf Coneybear wheels around the stage in heely’s while his self-made cape flows behind him. Teddy Kiritsy ’19 fits the part to a tee, as he playfully and immaturely giggles when assigned to spell South American rodents with amusing names. His song, “I’m Not That Smart,” however, shows that he can seemingly always spell words correctly while in a trance.
Charlito “Chip” Tolentino is played by Daniel Jameson ’21 in a Boy Scout uniform. He seems to expect things to come easily to him, but when he sees Leaf’s sister in the audience and puberty hits at the wrong time, he misspells his word and becomes the first contestant to be eliminated
The setting of the play was a high school gym set up for a spelling bee. It ran for approximately 100 minutes with no intermission. The music was played entirely by live musicians.
The Department of Theatre, Dance, and Film would like to give a special thanks to the production staff and for a great turnout in this year’s fall showcase.