The Farmington Valley Stage Company in Collinsville’s season continues with the Tony award-winning Broadway hit musical comedy, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” the hilarious tale of six young people in the throes of puberty, overseen by grown-ups who barely managed to escape childhood themselves, competing in the spelling championship of a lifetime. The spellers soon learn that winning isn’t everything and that losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser.
Though the spellers are all supposed to be between the ages of 10 and 13, they are played by adults. This unique musical comedy features a cast of many Farmington Valley audience favorites, including Collinsville’s own Darrell Cookman, making his first appearance with the FVSC as “Mitch Mahoney Comfort Counselor”. During the day, Darrell encourages homeschooling teens to push the limits of their passion and talent at True North located in the Collins Ax Factory.
Other cast members include, Al Girard (East Hartford). Katie Stodd Knapp (Plainville), Nate Strick (Bloomfield), Zachary Taylor (Bristol), Grace Vianney (Suffield), Lauren Hyne (Bloomfield), John Zimmerman (Southington), and Susan Eaccarino (Hartford). The musical is directed by Doreen Cohn (Simsbury) with music direction by Thomas Buckley (Bloomfield), costume design by Cindy Braunlich (Simsbury), and Technical Direction by Ken Jones (Canton).
“The Canton Town Hall is the perfect venue for the Bee,” Cohn said. “The Town Hall Auditorium with just over 100 seats — delivers intimacy like nowhere else. Our goal is to transform it into the auditorium of the Putnam County Junior High School complete with student artwork and anti-bullying posters.”
SPELLING BEE offers audience members a chance to join the fun by becoming on-stage spellers (strictly voluntary, of course). Each performance has four volunteers, selected from the audience prior to the show, who join the cast onstage and compete in the Bee,” Cohn explained. Cohn quickly noted that it doesn’t matter whether or not the volunteers can spell at the “championship” level. “The idea is to have fun with it, not humiliate anyone, so it’s all very skillfully handled no matter what level of speller they may be.”
The other improvisational element is that the show is meant to be “customized” or updated to reflect the current time, so there are abundant “new” additions to the dialogue referencing everything from recent local events to the ‘political scene”.
“Directing this show is challenging,” states Cohn. “Because of all of the improvised moments it’s important to allow the cast the freedom to adjust the dialogue on the fly. In addition, not only did we need to create movement for the cast, but we had the added challenge of adding movement that completely unrehearsed audience volunteers would be able to pick up and do along the cast.”
Remaining performances are March 17, 18 at 8 p.m. Running time is 90 minutes with no intermission and the musical is suitable for ages 12 and up, due to some adult content. Tickets online in advance: $20-$22 and at the door ($23-$25). Farmington Valley Stage Company is located in the Collinsville Town Hall Auditorium, 4 Market Street, Collinsville, CT. The Auditorium is handicapped accessible. See our website to purchase tickets of for more information about the Farmington Valley Stage Company. www.fvstage.org