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'Bee' spells laughter for Grand audiences

‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee'

7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun.

The Grand Theatre, 207 S. Second Ave., Elizabeth

By Carol Frazier
Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 12:56 a.m.
 

If the thought of a spelling bee conjures up not-so-pleasant memories, chances are this particular competition will cause you to have a change of heart.

Mon River Arts' production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is guaranteed to have theater-goers laughing. The show continues Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Grand Theatre in Elizabeth, 207 S. Second Ave.

Director Stephen Santa does a wonderful job bringing out the quirkiness of the characters, who are brought to life by a stellar cast. Even the four volunteers from the audience do a great job in their impromptu roles as spelling bee competitors.

The six contestants — Nathan Hough as William Barfee, Mary Johnson Blocher as Marcy Park, Jessica Whittington as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere, Kristin Welch as Olive Ostrovsky, George Heigel as Leaf Coneybear and Rocky Paterra as Chip Tolentino — are amazing. Whether it's Hough with his character's magical foot, Heigel and his character's spelling voice or the all-business mindset of Blocher's character, all performers nail their roles.

While they are busy focusing on their spelling words, they are kept in line by Rob James as Vice Principal Panch and Debbie Boughner as Rona Perretti, who turn in strong performances. Chad Elder is fun as Mitch Mahoney.

Not only is the acting strong, the musical talent of the cast is amazing. Boughner takes center stage in the vocal category on “Rona Moment” and the moving “The I Love You Song,” which also showcases Welch and Elder.

One of the funniest songs is “Chip's Lament” with Paterra in the spotlight, and “Second” is a tender tune featuring Welch and Hough.

“Spelling Bee” is guaranteed to make theater-goers spend a couple hours laughing and having a good time. This is definitely a must-see show. For those who saw it opening weekend, it's a different show each night with new words and new volunteers.

As part of the Day of Giving, anyone who wants to support Mon River Arts can do so on Thursday by calling 412-628-1032 or online at www.monriverarts.org.

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1916, or cfrazier@tribweb.com.

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