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Review: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee


For three nights in row, Central Hall Music Society have performed The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Upstage Theatre, Monksgate. The production marked the first summer show that the society have held, which is to become an annual feature.

The show was directed and choreographed by Benjamin Turner, aided by a team with formidable musical and theatrical experience. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was produced by Richard Oakman, as his debut in this role. The adjudicators were played by society favourites Martha Pothen, Ryan Greer and Chris Allen, with Thomas Boynton, Toby Churchley, Anthony Rickman, Katie Stephens and first years Amelia Inglis and Victoria Roffey playing the various quirky contestants.

Members of the cast doubled up as various other characters, for example Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere’s (Inglis) overbearing gay parents were played by Churchley and Allen, and Martha Pothen became Olive Ostrovsky’s absent mother by the cunning use of a scarf. My own personal favourite was the number “Magic Foot”, led by Anthony Rickman playing William Barfée. The powerful rendition of “The I Love You Song” by Stephens, Pothen and Allen was also particularly impressive.

Both props and set were very well done, from the huge poster at the back of the theatre down to Olive’s (Stephens) battered dictionary, dangled from the ceiling by a piece of string. The theatre allowed for the use of effective lighting, especially when the microphone at the centre front of the stage was spot lit. Although the musical had clearly been meticulously planned, there was also a level of improvisation which gave the show an honest humour. This was heightened by the entrance of four audience members into the Bee, who stumbled through alongside the other contestants. As well as being ridiculously funny, the show was also heart-warming, with adjudicator Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Greer) paying the endearing Olive’s entrance fee out of his own pocket.

The show attracted a sizable audience, and although at first the ticket prices (£6 for students) seemed steep, it was more than worth the cost.

All in all it is very hard to fault this production, although an interval would not have gone amiss as the show lasted for a couple of hours. CHMS seem to be gradually improving as a society and their dedication has certainly paid off in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.