Review: Spelling Bee

[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]

If you’re looking for a light-hearted evening filled with laughter, CenterStage’s production of the Tony Award winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is just the ticket. And the CenterStage company is not content to offer up only the original script. They’ve updated it to include references to today’s hot news.

They also added some local unpredictability by recruiting some theater patrons to join the competition. The night I attended, the unsuspecting volunteers were Rabbi Stanley Miles, David Weinberg, Matt Hayes and Miss Abby. Although they didn’t have a clue what to expect, the cast guided them gently and all four played their parts well. Weinberg was particularly adept at playing along.

Another delightful surprise was the performance of Alonzo Richmond who transformed effortlessly from the juvenile delinquent Mitch Mahoney, assigned to provide comfort and juice boxes to the losers upon their elimination from the bee, to one of Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere’s fathers to Olive Ostrovsky’s overworked and missing-in-action father. When he sang – wow, what a voice.

When I saw that Monty Fields was cast as the young teen William Barfeé, I had my doubts that this veteran performer could pull it off, but I was wrong. Not only did he succeed in portraying a spoiled, obnoxious kid with a “magic foot,” but he did it with aplomb.
The rest of the cast did a commendable job as well.

If you’re lucky, you might still score a ticket for this rollicking comedy, but there’s only one performance left – Saturday night at 7:30.

Extra kudos go the CenterStage for this performance. The Music Theatre International (Royalty Company) is gathering video taken at a CenterStage rehearsal and performance and editing it for a Showtime special which will be aired in 2011. CenterStage were chosen because it is one of the first community theaters to perform this show.

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