Musical Comedy Spelling Bee

Rebecca Varidel
6th Jun 2016

OK so I know that this musical comedy won a Tony Award in the year that it premiered. And that an eclectic group of young people, overseen by grown-ups who barely managed to escape childhood themselves, arrive at THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE, each eager to win for very different reasons. Sweet and shy Olive brings only her best friend (the dictionary) with her; bold and hyper-allergic speller William Barfee uses his ‘magic foot’ to propel him to greatness; former champion Chip is struggling with his burgeoning puberty; easily distracted Leaf is unconvinced that he’s smart enough to be a challenger; overachiever Marcy is disappointed by her consistent success; and politically aware Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre only wants to impress her gay dads. Even though only one can win, they all take home the important lesson that winning isn’t everything and losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser.

In hilarious, touching, and catchy songs, each speller reveals his/her hopes, struggles, and passions as they make their way through the competition.

I also found out (and I admit it is from Wikipedia) that an unusual aspect of the show is that four real audience members are invited on stage to compete in the spelling bee alongside the six young characters. During the 2005 Tony Awards, former Presidential candidate Al Sharpton competed. Another amusing aspect of the show is that the official pronouncer, usually an improv comedian, provides ridiculous usage-in-a-sentence examples when asked to use words in a sentence. For instance, for the word "palaestra", he says "Euripides said: What happens at the palaestra stays at the palaestra."

Yet the important thing I already know is that every show I see at the intimate Hayes Theatre is sensational. I also know (and did not need to find out) that every show at the small musical Kings Cross Hayes Theatre sells out very quickly. The Tony Award-winning musical comedy THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE is coming to Sydney’s Hayes Theatre Co from November 17th for a strictly limited season only.

The talented ensemble cast includes Henry Brett (The Songs of Cy Coleman), James Coley (Dogfight), Sage Douglas (Heathers), Teresa Duddy (The King and I), Matt Heyward (Les Miserables), Andrew Hondromatidis (South Pacific), Caitlin Mathieson (High Fidelity), Rebecca Moore (Children of Eden), Riley Nottingham (His Ghostly Heart) and David Spencer (Mary Poppins).

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE originally opened off-Broadway in 2005 where it was an instant hit, prompting its move to Broadway where it ran for nearly three years clocking up 1.136 performances. It received six Tony Award nominations including Best Musical and won two Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Featured Actor in a Musical. The show also received six Drama Desk Award nominations including for Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Musical and won for Outstanding Book of a Musical, Outstanding Ensemble Performance, and Outstanding Director of a Musical.

Details of Sydney performances in our daily Sydney Scoop events calendar or at Hayes Theatre Co.