Saturday, July 20, 2019
Can You Spell Hilarious? Community School Students Can
Snot-nosed Rye Fruehling relies on his “magic foot” to spell the words assigned him.
Wednesday, October 31, 2018


Olive Ostrovski’s’s best friend is a dictionary—her mother is away on a 9-month spiritual quest at an ashram in India and her father never shows up.

William Barfuss uses his magic foot to spell out words—when he isn’t wiping away the snot from a mucous membrane disorder.

Leaf Coneybear admits he’s “not that smart”—he made the Spelling Bee finals only because better spellers had to go to other functions like their Bar Mitzvah.

Ethan Hunt sings “I’m Not That Smart,” yet he lucks into spelling the words correctly.

Logainne Schwartzangrubenierre is a lisping hyperventilating overachiever who’s constantly chanting mantras and writing on her arm as a means of seeing a word before spelling it out.

And Marcy Park doesn’t need to ask for definitions of the words she’s about to spell—she’s a walking encyclopedia.

These are some of the quirky contestants in the fast-paced musical comedy “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” which will take the stage at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 1-3, at the Sun Valley Community School Theatre.

The 2005 Broadway comedy musical with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin won two Tonys.

Julia Ott relives her contestant days as Joe Hall plays the droll vice principal in his role as a droll vice principal sizes her up.

The play stars Julia Ott as the over-the-top former contestant who serves up ridiculous bios on each contestants, such as “She comes to us from Our Lady of Intermittent Sorrows.”

Joe Hall plays the droll vice principal-turned judge who offers contestants ridiculous usages of the words they’re about to spell in sentences.

Oh—and this musical could star you, too, if you’re lucky enough to be among the contestants chosen from the audience. You’ll be in good company—Al Sharpton was among those who matched his wits against the fictional contestants on Broadway.

The entertaining score includes such songs as “My Friend, The Dictionary” and “Pandemonium.”

Sophie Harder plays Logainne Schwartzangrubenierre, a lisping hyperventilating overachiever.

“The composer and lyricist is a brilliant musician named William Finn who writes in a really quirky style,” said Kevin Wade, Sun Valley Community School’s Upper School theatre teacher.  “He’s my favorite composer—he wrote ‘A New Brain,’ which we performed at The Spot, as well.”

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a very challenging piece, but the Upper School had the perfect group of kids for it, said Wade.

“It’s quirky and hysterical, and it takes a really honest look at adolescence from the bad family situation, to puberty, from parents pushing too hard to absentee parents, from the joy and agony of competition to the triumph of spirit over adversity,” he added.

“It’s kind of a coming of age story the age we’re playing. Every student in it has such a unique personality, and middle-school is super competitive anyway. It’s not a bore and a snore,” said Jasper Mott.

Jasper Mott has more to worry about than whether he can spell a word correctly.

“It’s super unique because some of us have to be tough and strong adults, while others have to pretend like they’re little kids. And the music is challenging--‘Pandemonium,’ for instance, has lots of movement,” added Carter Sammis.

The key is to know that you do grow out of that awkward phase, said Julia Ott.

“We’ve all been through that. You think you’re never going to grow out of it, and then you do,” she added. “Everybody in the show is so talented and cool—I’m loving it.”

The production features 31 Upper School Students.

The contestants in the spotlight include Laine Allison, Christine DuFur, Rye Fruehling, Sophie Harder, Ethan Hunt and Jasper Mott, with Joe Hall.

The ensemble cast includes Paola Alvardo, Shea Brokaw, Cailin Chandler, Emma Desserault, Norah Dowdle, Lily Fitzgerald, Tallulah Gilbreath, Miriam Gilman, Ian Hann, Imogen Harris, Paris Himmelman, Chloe Lewis, Bella Maurtua, Alli Rathfon, Elliot Ludlow, Mallory Mauney, Peter Morawitz, Priya Merchant, Sophia Sturgeon, Ava Verhaeghe, Kennedy Watts and Levi Woods.

John Mauldin serves as musical director and Megan Mahoney, the choreographer. Jamey Reynolds created the set.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students at the door.


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