Review: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

  • Alexandra Hull ’22

With its light-hearted humor, entertaining audience interaction, and engaging cast, Sacred Heart’s Fall musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee left its spectators smiling long after the show’s finale. Despite the musical’s simple plot revolving around a middle school spelling bee, a series of quirky characters each with their own backstory and shtick added dimension and thoughtfully illuminated the all-too-familiar feeling of pressure to succeed in life. 

Among these star spellers included Leaf Coneybear (Ryan Brouchoud ‘21), Loraine Schwartzy (Emma Mills ‘22), Marcy Park (Maddy Chai ‘23), Olive Ostrovsky (Anne-Sophie Lacombe ‘21), and William Barfée (R.J. Stephens ‘23). As the show developed, each speller shared the roots of their peculiar habits and allowed the audience to empathize with their often relatable personal struggles. For example, Leaf Coneybear, a socially awkward cape-wearer, expressed his lack of self-confidence to the audience in his number entitled “I’m Not That Smart,” where he explained how his siblings often make fun of him for lacking general knowledge.

However, in Act II, the characters begin learning to accept their quirks and grasp how insignificant the spelling bee is in the grand scheme of life. Marcy Park, a highly competitive overachiever, purposely misspells a word after realizing that winning a spelling bee is not worth the overwhelming stress. Directed by Mr. Adams, SHP’s drama teacher, cast members claim the musical was super fun to both rehearse and perform. Emma Mills ‘22 claims, “This musical had one of the most tight knit cast I’ve ever been a part of, every show brings a unique experience and there were only positive vibes here!”

The cast’s interaction with audience members was definitely a unique factor that added to the comedy side of the musical. The characters picked four random audience members to go on the stage and join as fellow competitors in the bee. This humorous aspect required a lot of impressive improvisations from the cast and brought the musical to life by creating the illusion that one was actually a member of the crowd attending a spelling bee. Among the audience’s favorite scenes was the opening number in Act II, “Chip’s Lament,” performed by Chip Tolentino (Ian Cardamone ‘21), a disappointed competitor eliminated in the first act of the musical due to getting distracted by Leaf Coneybear’s sister in the crowd. Chip walked off stage and strolled along the aisles of the seats while singing and throwing candy into the crowd.

The musical comes down to finalists Olive Ostrovsky and William Barfée, whose budding romance on stage causes William to consider allowing Olive to win instead. However, with Olive’s reassurance, William emerges victorious after correctly spelling “Weltanschauung.” The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee not only provided its spectators with plenty of laughs while expanding their vocabulary, but also carried with it a greater message. Similar to many SHP students, the spellers had a tendency to blow things out of proportion and were easily stressed by rather minuscule things.

The show reminds viewers that sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in insignificant issues, but having the ability to step aside every once in a while to look at the big picture ultimately proves to be a much more effective skill than simply knowing how to spell fancy words.

By Axel de Vernou

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