Spelling Bee is a sold out production at the Performing Arts Centre - runs till the 24th

theartsBy Pepper Parr

July 15th, 2016


There is something fun about musicals – they always start with a burst of energy and you know you are going to be entertained.

As the actors and actresses take to the stage you wonder how they are going to portray their character, more than often there is a surprise or two.

Thursday night the KooGle Theatre Company opened “The 25thAnnuual Putnam County Spelling Bee” with a cast of nine supplemented by four members of the audience who volunteered to be part of the spelling bee.

Their names weren’t provided but the woman who was asked to spell “cow” did not expect to be on her knees on the stage with Muscle bound Mitch Mahoney, played by Giovanni Spina, as he comforted her when she failed to spell a word.

The audience didn’t expect to see Jesus in the balcony either as he spoke to one of the players. It was that kind of night.

KooGle cast

The cast on stage taking questions from the audience. First night was SOLD OUT – as are many of the seven day run performances.

Mark Allan, playing Leaf Coneybear, didn’t really know how to spell but had a “divining rod” that took over his mind and his body as he blurted out the letters to words he didn’t even understand. He was the nut case who turned in a funny performance of a whimsical character.

The chair of the Spelling Bee – she was winner in the 3rd Annual Putnam County event, stroked the microphone stand in a way that said much more than she perhaps wanted to convey. Cara Pantalone, playing Rona Lisa Perretti was that busy, supressed personality that runs the show – she sold real estate.

The awkward teenage Boy Scout, played by Daniel Spragge, who had let himself slip into a day dream of some wished for girl in his life that produced an erection he was not able to hide was one of the funnier characters on the stage.

I had the pleasure of sitting between Deb Tymstra and Loretta Bailey in the balcony and will not forget the Bailey laugh, it came from deep in her throat, she was thoroughly enjoying the Boy Scout and his predicament. Baily once played a leading role in Les Miserable in Toronto and will be performing at the Lowville Festival on the 24th of July.

The contest judge, played by Christopher Gray, did explain and apologized for the “unfortunate incident” that required him to bow out of the judge job in a previous spelling bee. He assured his audience that he had worked on his problem.
The performance program describes the cast as six quirky adolescents and the three equally quirky grown up who reveal pasts that are at times hilarious and poignant.

Marcy Park, played by Laura Caswell, was waiting for her Dad who had her contest entrance fee, did a superb performance as she sang in a very plaintive voice the words “Mama – chanti” as the Mother who had been in an ashram in India and the Father who didn’t always show up stood on either side looking away from their child.

Her blossoming affection for William Barfee, played by Niko Combitsis, was tender, touching and for this reviewer, stole the show. Mary Park won the hearts of the audience and the Spelling Bee trophy as well.

Barfee was certainly the strongest character on the stage who did a short tap dance, a skill he began to acquire in January. How his dancing and spelling go together is something you are going to have to see to fully appreciate.

Olive Ostrovsky, who spoke six languages, was played by Shaina Silver-Baird who came to the conclusion that wining was perhaps not all it was cracked up to be and left the stage on the back of muscle bound Mitch.

Koogle volunteers

One of the four volunteer contestants in the Spelling Bee returned to the stage for his bib. They had a lot of fun.

Leslie Kay and Christopher Gray performed well – KooGle is their theatre company and it was their efforts and energy that brought the play to the stage of the Community Studio. Christopher has this capacity to expand the character he is playing with small deft movements that convey much more than the words he speak. There is a tightness to the man that works well; not controlled but very evident. He is to be appreciated.

The Performing Arts Centre is a superb location – we are fortunate to have the place. The Spelling Bee – try it – light summer fare that is worth the time. If you are one of those brave souls with a sense of adventure – sign up to be a contestant – there are four spots available for each performance.

They were sold out their opening night and are sold out for several of the seven day run which is: July 14th to 16th and July 21st to 23rd at 7:30 pm in the Community Theatre. The play also runs at 2:00 pm from July 17th to 24th.

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