QUINCY — Cutthroat competition (that’s c-u-t-t-h-r-o-a-t c-o-m-p-e-t-i-t-i-o-n), soaring hopes and shattered dreams are the stuff that songs and dances are made of in the annual musical at Quincy High School. “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” opens Thursday at the QHS theater, 16 Southeast Sixth Ave., with performances Friday and Saturday. The curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. each night.
The play premiered on Broadway in 2005 and ran for almost three years. Director and drama club advisor Tracy Higgins said she saw it, liked it, and added to her list of possible productions.
The play started as improvisational theater before being turned into a scripted play, and “we have some audience participation,” Higgins said. (People thinking of attending the play should brush up on their spelling.) “It’s pretty humorous.”
The mix of improvisation and a Broadway-grade script made the play a little more complicated than the usual QHS musical. “This is the year to do it,” Higgins said, because she has an experienced cast.
Experience matters because some actors are working with audience members, and there’s no way to know what’s going to happen, Higgins said. Character development requires more study, and the music “requires some pretty good vocal work.” The cast has been working with choir teacher Kylie Youngren.
The play follows the fortunes of the participants, all about middle-school age, in the annual spelling bee. The winner will receive a trophy. The losers get a juice box from “comfort counselor” Mitch Mahoney (Jerry Hodges in the QHS production), helping out as part of his court-mandated community service.
Chip (Samuel Ronish) is last year’s winner, but this year he runs into a personal problem. His biggest competition – at least it looks that way – is Marcy (Ivania Chavez), who’s really tired of her high-achieving life.
William Barfee (Kyle Mills) is a threat to win, thanks to his habit of tracing the word out on the floor with his foot. Leaf (Taggert Hodges) relies on his imaginary hand-puppet friend to help him, since he’s not supposed to be smart enough to compete. Olive (Paige Lubach) would really like her parents to pay attention to her, or at least show up to watch her compete. Logainne (Brynn Nieuwenhuis) has the opposite problem – her parents are way too competitive.
Vice-principal Panch (Gates Peterson) is in charge, with the help of Rona Lisa (Brenna Bews), a spelling bee veteran and past winner. The word is there were some issues the last time Mr. Panch ran the spelling bee.
Tickets are $10 for adults and can be purchased at the door.