SPECIAL TO THE JOURNAL
Published: January 31, 2010
There's little wrong and so much right in Twin City Stage's latest offering -- the charming, award-winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee that opened Friday night, despite the snow.Stephen and I were supposed to work concessions last night and I was soooo looking forward to seeing the show. Unfortunately Stephen was in Phoenix visiting his boyfriend and the snowstorm canceled the performance. I could have gone to this afternoon's matinee but the call canceling my own tech rehearsal for The Nerd came too late.
As improbable as it sounds, a spelling bee made up of misfit, terribly bright 12-year-olds has the ability to steal our hearts. Such is the stuff of good theater.
Under Gene Johnson's nimble direction, all of the actors -- six contestants, the bee's hostess, a vice principal and a counselor -- bring heart as well as neuroses, brains, raging puberty and a whole lot of talent to the annual bee where we witness the pursuit and questioning of what winning really means.
The play won two Tony awards in 2005, and its songs are as inventive as they are complex.
Four-part harmonies that would challenge the best of singers seem easy for this skilled ensemble of actors, several of whom are making Twin City debuts and one in particular is showing us what teenage talent looks like.
Savannah Lee Mumford, a sophomore at Mount Airy High School, has already appeared in more than 20 musicals and dramas.
In her Twin City debut, she received much applause, particularly for her trio with two other new actors to the company, Justin C. Hall and Sheri Masters, both of whom have radiant voices, as well.
The show included a cameo appearance by local television anchorman Cameron Kent, who became one of four audience members tapped at each performance to come on stage as other contestants in the bee.
Rounding out the talented cast are area favorites Chad Edwards, Brad Stephenson and Carlos Luis Nieto.
Nieto as Barfee, a neurotic contestant who can spell because of a "magic foot," brings to mind the body and facial pyrotechnics of comic Jerry Lewis.
In the end, how can you not love a bumbler or a girl with two fathers for a mother?
Spelling, after all, is what makes them feel normal.
I've only heard good things about this show, so if you can catch it, please let me know, so I can live it vicariously through you.