Your word is outstanding: Spring musical creates community and laughter amongst crowd

The 25th annual Putnam Spelling Bee is originally conceived  by Rebecca Feldman and the book was written by Rachel Shienkin. this musical shows an array of vocals, lighting skills, real life scenarios and amazing actors.

Buena Theater Department

The 25th annual Putnam Spelling Bee is originally conceived by Rebecca Feldman and the book was written by Rachel Shienkin. this musical shows an array of vocals, lighting skills, real life scenarios and amazing actors.

 Look out Ventura, Buena Drama Departments rendition of The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee, came to town and left audiences on the edge of their seats, wanting more.

Originally written by Rachel Shienkin, The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee, follows six elementary students through their county’s annual spelling bee. The show is filled with inclusivity, brilliant young minds, humorous moments, and relatable  life scenarios, making it the perfect musical to end the year with. 

“I thought it was hilarious and I thought it would reach our high school audience,” said Director Karen Rodrigeuz. 

The Putnam Spelling Bee opens its curtains to reveal a simple stage with a set of bleachers, a judge’s table and a single microphone positioned in the middle of the floor.  The act starts with spelling bee assistant, Rona Perretti played by Senior Jayden Lee, followed by the spellers.

A content warning was placed outside of the theater due to the adult language and mature content. “We put the warning on there simply to protect people who might not find that [funny],” Theater Department Director Karen Rodriguez said. (Brooklin Barilone )
Right off the bat, the cast takes the audience’s breath with their amazing combined talent, during beginning songs, “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “The Spelling Rules.” As each character signs in for the competition, we are introduced to each of their personalities, adding to the seriousness and humanity in the show. 

Attention to detail was not left out during this production, audiences saw lighting changes, slow motion scenes, and crowd interactions. 

Olive Ostrovsky, played by Sophomore Annika Harris, spreads an optimistic attitude throughout the show, while struggling with loneliness due to her dad working full-time and her mom leaving to stay in India. The relationship between Olive and her parents is a good addition to the show, as it opens conversations about real family dynamics many young children experience. 

Chip Tolentino, played by junior Adam Karluck, is a returning participant in the bee who is determined to take home a win, but unfortunately, gets distracted by an embarrassing hormonal incident. Along with this scene creating comedic break, it also reiterates the plays authentic energy that is carried throughout the musical. 

“Chip was the hardest for me to play because I had to sing on top of trying to remember myself as a little kid,” Karluck said. 

 Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, played by senior Kayleen Mares, is an overachieving activist, who struggles with the pressure to be successful from her two fathers. 

“One of our crew members has two gay dads, so it is a very real subject, although it is treated very humorously in the show,” Rodrigeuz said. 

Mares’ character is important to represent the younger generations that are dealing with academic validation or feeling like they are not doing enough. 

Leaf Coneybear, played by senior Brandon Morris, was probably the most impactful character in the show. Leaf is the least qualified to be at the spelling bee, as he came in third place during the previous bee. The audience sees Leaf struggle with confidence due to his family’s doubt as they ridicule him and continuously underestimate his abilities to win. During the moments with Leaf on the stage at the microphone, the lighting team, lead by Sophomore Logan Rodriguez and Megan Webb, changes the lights to show various colors and shapes to portray the process of Leaf’s thinking.

Senior Brandon Morris playing Leaf Coneybear. This character was the most highlighted actor, from watching the production. The character displays a wide range of emotions and Morris portrayed them remarkably well. (Sevilla Photography )

William Morris Barfeé, played by senior Gianni Nicolinni, is the cocky, outcast speller. Barfeé (Bar-fea), is continuously mocked and torn down by competitors due to his name, referring to him as Barfee (Bar-fee). Despite feeling isolated, Barfeé is confident in his abilities and, towards the end, makes a long lasting friend. 

Last to be introduced is new transfer student Marcy Park, played by Senior Mia Rae Perez. 

Marcy has a reputation for being stern and determined to do good in academics, but throughout the show her overachiever attitude slowly breaks down. The best example for this is during the song I Speak Six Languages. This song is the breakdown of her trying not to live up to those expectations, with the lyrics expressing the immense amount of pressure adults and peers around Marcy put on her.

The collection of characters each add their own detail to the show which Adds a diversity and representation that makes the story realistic and important to many people. 

Notably, the vocals in this show were amazing. Choir director Kevin Downey assisted the cast with their songs and helped each person excel the best way possible. 

“Downey spent time with some of the cast members in the choir. If anybody wants to get better with their vocals, they should take choir with Mr. Downey,” Rodriguez said. “They [the cast]  spent an exorbitant amount of time rehearsing, and I think the desire of the actors to portray the characters really well and have outstanding vocals of their own, really helped.” 

Before the curtains opened, the crowd was able to volunteer as a background speller, for this night in particular, Guidance Counselor, Nastasha Hillis. Each background speller goes up to the microphone at least once, and, when introducing who they are, operator of the spelling bee, Rona Perretti, jokingly mocks them, creating on the spot comedy. 

By far, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee blew the audience away with a night of laughter and connection. It truly was an outstanding production done by the Buena Theater Department.