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Fantastic cast creates a hilarious Spelling Bee (A2CT Review) September 8, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals.
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I’ve made it a habit to see “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at least once a theater season — and you can’t ask for a better production than the one currently running at Ann Arbor Civic Theatre.

A hilarious (and pitch-perfect) cast creates a great evening of musical theater at the Lydia Mendelssohn that will have you howling with laughter one moment, and misting up a bit the next during this elementary school spelling bee (all the characters are played by adults) that is equal parts mockumentary and old-fashioned story-telling musical.

Director Wendy Sielaff and choreographer Reilly Conlon (with additional help from Sielaff) keep the musical moving swiftly through its 95 intermissionless minutes. Each of the (stereotyped) child spellers is beautifully crafted by this very funny and talented cast. Emily Fishman is an excellent Olive. Hallie Fox is all spunk as Marcy. Keshia Daisy Oliver lisps her way through a touching Loraine. Bob Cox is all gangly hijinx as Chip. Nathan King is a simply superb Coneybear (it takes special talent to instantly bring you from high to low in just two lines of song). Connor Rhoades is a “sure-footed” Barfee (see what I did there?). The “adults” here are equally strong — Allison Ackerman is a very good Rona, and Brandon Cave a side-splitting Panch (of course he does get to deliver the shows funniest lines). Nick Rapson is wonderful as “grief counselor” Mitch.

Production values here are strong – from the simple set design (Mike and Wendy Sielaff) to the clean lighting design (Brian Meyers), costume design (Nan Wirth), and sound design (Bob Skon). Debbie Nichols conducts and plays keyboard with the tight 5-piece  onstage ensemble, and her vocal direction is excellent — the diction and harmonies here sound great.

I’ll be the first to admit that 25th Annual is one of those pieces that is so finely written that you already know its going to be hilarious. In the hands of an excellent cast such as this one, it makes it soar.

Highest Recommendation.

Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee continues at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, Michigan League Building, University of Michigan through Sunday September 11th. Tickets at the door, at a2ct.org, or by calling 734-971-2228.

 

 

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