UNION – “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” comes to Kean University’s Wilkins Theatre in a hysterical production by the Department of Theatre Feb. 26 through March 6. This award-winning musical features a cast of Kean students and alumni, and offers opportunities for audience participation that keep the laughs coming.
“It’s about the unlikeliest of heroes: a quirky yet charming cast of outsiders for whom a spelling bee is the one place they can stand out and fit in at the same time,” says Professor Holly Logue, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts and director of the production.
“With the underlying theme of young people yearning to fit in with their peers, the show has great music, a clever book and improvisation to keep everyone on their toes!”
Six young people in the throes of puberty, overseen by grown-ups (who barely managed to escape childhood themselves) learn that winning isn’t everything and that losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser. The adolescent characters, as portrayed by Kean University students, are some rather cleverly interpreted odd-ball individuals.
“Spelling Bee” is unique at each performance, when four audience volunteers are selected to legitimately participate in the contest. Every evening provides uproarious and unexpected twists and turns as these volunteers remain on stage for the first part of the musical, participating in choreography and winning or losing as their spelling abilities dictate.
Music and lyrics are by William Finn, acclaimed for his Broadway musicals March of the Falsettos, Falsettoland and Elegies. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, called “irresistible,” “lovable” and “refreshing” by theatre critics won the Tony Award for Best Book and The Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book by Rachel Sheinkin. Sheinkin is a noted faculty member of the Yale School of Drama, and recently provided the book for the musical “Little House on the Prairie.”
The characters of the play are typically portrayed by a cast of nine. The Kean production expands the cast number to 24, with actors playing students, contestants, parents and audience members on the stage and in the theatre house.
Performance times are Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 28, at 2 p.m., and Thursday, March 4 at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee range from $10 – $15 and can be ordered by calling the Kean University box office at 1-908-737-7469 or by visiting the website www.keanstage.com.
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