Think revisiting your adolescent awkwardness is a living nightmare? Think again. In the Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s latest production, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” sends audiences back to their younger years. But viewers are kept spellbound and laughing as they watch six spellers, four guest performers and three eccentric adults redefine the competition of a spelling bee.
At the beginning of the show, four guest spellers were called to the stage. The preview included noteworthy performances by UConn women’s softball coach, Jen McIntyre and owner of Sweet Emotions candy shop, Mike Young. Both were great additions to the stage and played along with the cast. Young was granted the epithet: “lost in his own backyard,” and spun around slightly to suggest that perhaps he was still lost on stage. Eventually, Young and the two other audience members were escorted from the stage, but McIntyre stunned the audience as she spelt some of the most difficult words. In all, the addition of audience members was an interesting treat and kept the show original.
Once all guest spellers had left the stage, it was time for the real competition to begin and for the cast to shine. Even in the preview night, every actor and actress astounded the audience. Onstage, every actor truly filled the role of his or her character; most notably, Leaf Coneybear, played by Gavin McNicholl, personified the geeky quirks in his every movement.
Coneybear’s entire family comes to watch him at the bee, despite his siblings endless taunts about his stupidity. He surprises everyone, including himself, when he spells a word correctly. The character’s orange graphic tee, jean jacket covered in pins, a cape with the face of Dexter from “Dexter’s Laboratory” and a helmet fit with McNicholl’s convulsive, and strange, spelling habits. Coneybear is obviously a little special, and McNicholl embodies his quirks to a cue. “Coneybear stepped into his role; I couldn’t stop laughing whenever he was on stage,” Liam King, a third semester economics major, said.
While Coneybear was stupidly funny, another character that shined was Chip Tolentino, played by Kent Coleman. The returning champion, Tolentino filled the alpha male role of the spelling bee while dealing with the changes of puberty. Audience members connected with him, as he seemed to be in every part of the show. “His voice was amazing, and he was so versatile around the stage. One minute he was here, then he was in the aisles, or flying somewhere. He filled his role during the entire play,” Michael Vagni, a third semester management and engineering for manufacturing major, said.
Other notable characters include William Barfée, played by Ryan Shea and Olive Ostrovsky, played by Whitney Abston. These two characters overcome pervious hardships and letdowns in order to achieve and create lasting friendships.
On the whole, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is undoubtedly the CRT’s best performance of the semester. It is impossible not to laugh. If you are looking for a way to break the mendacity of the finals’ crunch, head over to the Harriet Jorgensen Theatre for a performance that will reduce the stress of any overachievers, comfort the perfectionists and connect with the rest. Make sure to see the CRT’s “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” before its closing performance on Dec. 7.