Sunday, January 23, 2011

Actors' Playhouse: 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (reviews)' Playhouse opened its production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee on January 21, 2011, following previews on January 19 and 20.
...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. This hilarious tale of overachievers' angst chronicles the experience of six adolescent outsiders vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime. Spelling Bee is the unlikeliest of hit musicals about the unlikeliest of heroes; a quirky yet charming cast of outsiders for whom a spelling bee is the one place where they can stand out and fit in at the same time. Music and lyrics by William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin, conceived by Rebecca Feldman.
David Arisco directed a cast that included Henry Gainza, Stacy Schwartz, Robert Johnston, Brian Golub, Julie Kleiner, Rebecca Larkin, Gwen Hollander, Ben Bagby, and Gary Marachek.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
Director David Arisco, musical director Eric Alsford and choreographer Barbara Flaten deliver a show that sends the audience out with a broad knowing smile.
Arisco leads a generally solid classroom of actors, both the contestants whose body language scream how uncomfortable they are in their own skin, and the equally maladjusted adults supervising the bee.
Marachek has reined himself back in from Fagin last month to give his patented arch top-spin while intoning the meaning of the words and using them in a sentence. Local stalwart Schwartz reminds us what a gorgeous voice she has and subtly communicates that Perretti is repressing the truth that she has failed to accomplish all she dreamed of when she was a contestant. Hollander is winsome and winning. Gainza, with the scene-stealing role, is appropriately over the top although we don’t see the underlying pain that makes Barfee’s defense-mechanism arrogance excusable.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald;
How do you spell "adorable?'' Technically speaking, of course, the answer is a-d-o-r-a-b-l-e. But if you check out the newest production at Actors' Playhouse, you'd swear "adorable'' equals The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
The cast is, to a person, terrific. And the Actors' Playhouse team -- director David Arisco, choreographer Barbara Flaten, musical director Eric Alsford, set designer Gene Seyffer, costume designer Ellis Tillman, lighting designer Patrick Tennent and sound designer Alexander Herrin -- achieves a just-right tone and look for a musical that is simultaneously goofy and sweet. And Spelling Bee is just edgy enough (it would be PG-13, if musicals got ratings) that this tenderhearted romp through a kids' world is a hoot for grown-ups.
The Actors' Playhouse production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee plays at the Miracle Theater through February 13, 2011.

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