Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 16, 2012

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Exit 7 Players, Ludlow, MA
through April 28, 2012
By Walter Haggerty

How Do You Spell G.R.E.A.T? Exit 7 Players have the answer – and they are superb. In fact, the entire production of “Spelling Bee” is an inspired evening of top drawer entertainment from start to finish.

The prospect of turning a traditional high school spelling bee into a hit Broadway musical is about as promising a project as a musical based on the life of Adolph Hitler becoming a success. Oh well, anything is possible on Broadway.  “Spelling Bee,” which began its life at Barrington Stage, turned out to be a real winner with a Tony nomination and an extended run on Broadway and beyond.

At the Exit 7 Players Theatre, a cast that has been fine-tuned to perfection by director Tom LeCourt, gives an ensemble performance that is impeccable. Their portrayal of a group of high school misfits, whose single opportunity to shine is their spelling expertise; discover through their competition that there really is more to life than winning. With a series of entertaining songs, a liberal dose of humor, and ultimately acceptance of, and even affection for one another, the evening arrives at a jubilant conclusion.

Every member of the cast deserves accolades for his/her distinctively molded characterizations – each a bit off center, but always on target. Steve Grabowski’s Leaf Coneybear, with his cape and hand puppet, is a delight. Kyle Boatwright as Logainne, gives an evenly balanced performance of a brilliant, slightly confused teenager.

Megan Hoy’s Marcy manages to escape her reputation as a perfect student by reveling in deliberately making a mistake in spelling. Todd Porter, as William Barfee (pronounced Barfay), is a hilarious, sarcastic spelling wizard with a “magic” foot. Nikki Wadleigh’s performance of the nervous, unsure, waif-like Olive Ostrovsky, is pure gold.

Finally, David Webber’s Chip Tolentino, the handsome, bright, boy-next-door, betrayed by a quirk of nature, could easily settle into the cast of “Glee” as a replacement for one of their obviously aging teens. The adults –  Eric Johnson, Michael Garcia, and especially Kathy Renaud, were excellent throughout.

 ”Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a perfect example and living proof that America truly does have talent – and some of it is right next door.