“25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” delights!!!

The marvelous cast of the Arts Club production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” – photo courtesy of Arts Club

25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Arts Club Vancouver
extended until August 25th.

I first became interested in spelling bees after my 2nd cousin Tracey won the inaugural Canspell regional spelling bee in the Vancouver region.  At the young age of 14, she then went off to the Scripps National Bee in Washington DC, and the Canspell National in Ottawa where she placed in the top 5.  I diligently followed the emails that her mother sent the family. Next I watched the movie Akeelah and the Bee, about a young child becoming involved in a spelling Bee, and being trained by Laurence Fishburne's character of Dr. Larabee.  Richard Gere also starred in the movie Bee Season.

This play captures all the silly ideas of the importance of spelling bees as well as the serious undercurrents of perfectionism and high expectations placed on the young competitors of these contests.  This is afterall a musical.  And musicals are meant to be fun and light.  And this musical delivers on all accounts… except I don't know if I can hum any of the tunes… but I was humming something when I walked out of the theatre.

The Arts Club has put a real effort into this production.  I remember earlier in May, when Arts Club manager Howard Jang told me that this was going to be very enjoyable.  He's right.  You step into the theatre, and the set design accurately represents a high school gymnasium, right down to the lockers outside in the hall.  You are indeed transported into a world of nostalgia as the musical begins with event host Rona Lisa Peretti entering the gym to set up.  There is a flashback
to when she is a little girl and she won the third annual spelling bee by correctly
spelling syzygy.  It brings a certain emotional induction to the theatre play, as I recalled watching the CBC documentary Generation: The Chan Legacy, that showed tv film footage of my young cousin Tracey spelling her word at the Canspell contest.

There are five contestants that are supplemented by four “contestants” chosen from the audience.  This adds to a wonderful spontaneity for the play, as each night will be different with the audience members chosen. 

This play is also a wonderful fit for multicultural Vancouver.  Two of the characters are Asian.  Chip Tolentino is a boy scout having issues with puberty.  This returning champion of last year's contest is played by Vincent Tong.  Marcy Park is an over-achieving recent transplant that sings “I Speak Six Languages” and played by Rosie Simon.

This is a fun play and perfect for a summer evening of fun.  25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee has been extended until August 25th.

More soon…..

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