Adult actors play six quirky kids in junior high school who vie for the spelling bee trophy. The show is filled with rapid-fire one-liners as the kids deal with some hilarious complications of puberty and other challenges of growing up.

Performances earned standing ovation grades during the opening weekend. It’s a musical and there are several memorable numbers, but the comedy propels the show from beginning to end. Paul G. Caron’s direction gives warmth and honesty to some bittersweet family situations revealed by the kids in brief flashback scenes. The actors also double as parents in these scenes. Several audience volunteers also go on stage to compete in the spelling bee, and the script gives them some clever comic moments.

The wry comic delivery of Roger Philippon, 20-year CLT veteran, is a perfect counterpoint to the wild and crazy antics of the contestants. Philippon plays Vice Principal Douglas Panch, whose job is to give spellers their words and to supply definitions and examples in sentences. He serves up a constant flow of straight-faced hilarity.

Eileen Messina, also a CLT veteran of direction, dance and song, plays Rona Lisa Peretti, the spelling bee moderator whose stern personality conceals a compassionate side of her personality. Messina choreographed the show, and she contributes some fine vocal work on “My Favorite Moment of the Bee” and other numbers with contestants.

Glenn Atkins plays Mitch Mahoney, a tough, silent type whose unspecified offenses have him doing community service as comfort counselor at the bee. This is his sixth CLT appearance, and he has extensive stage credits dating to the early 1980s in New Mexico. Atkins’ fine voice is featured in “Prayer of the Comfort Councilor” with Philippon and the spellers.

Each of the actors who play the spellers put distinct personal touches into their roles. Gerry Therrien, veteran of CLT and other area theater groups, turns in an outstanding performance as William Barfee, which is pronounced Bar-FAY, not BARF-ee, as he repeatedly admonishes Panch. William’s spelling gimmick is to trace out the letters of his words on the floor with his foot. With Messina and others, Therrien delivers a very entertaining song-and-dance called “Magic Foot.”

Max Middleton, a senior at Hebron Academy gives a fine portrayal as Leaf Coneybear, who comes from a large family of former hippies and makes his own clothes. He spells words correctly while in a trance. Katie St. Pierre plays Olive, a newcomer to competitive spelling. Her mother is studying at an ashram in India, and her father is working late, as usual, but Olive is sure he will arrive before the end of the bee.

Michael Litchfield, another CLT veteran, plays Chip Tolentino, a Boy Scout and last year’s Bee champion. Chip expects things to come easily but he finds puberty hitting at an inopportune moment, as he laments in a hilarious musical number.

Harmony Brown, who recently attended college in North Carolina, is new to CLT. She portrays Marcy Park, an over-achiever who is never allowed to cry.

Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre is played by Rebecca Singer, a six-year veteran of the U.S. Navy who is now active in numerous area theatrical productions. Her character is the youngest and most politically aware speller who has two overbearing homosexual fathers.

Rebecca Caron is musical director and she leads a fine five-piece orchestra for the production.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is presented in one act. It contains some adult themes and language. The play’s music and lyrics are by William Finn and it was nominated for six Tonys in 2005, winning two including Best Book.

GO AND DO

Remaining performances are for “Spelling Bee” are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 26, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 27-28, and at 2 p.m.. Sunday, April 29. Performances are at Great Falls Arts Center, 30 Academy St., Auburn. For tickets, call 783-0958 or go online to www.laclt.com.


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