The cast of Vernon Secondary School's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee takes the stage at VSS's Theatre on the Hill Dec. 9 to 16.

The cast of Vernon Secondary School's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee takes the stage at VSS's Theatre on the Hill Dec. 9 to 16.

Vernon students spell out f-u-n in comedy-musical

Students welcome volunteers to enter the 25th Annual Putnam Country Spelling Bee at Vernon Secondary School.

It’s near the crepuscule of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and drama students at Vernon Secondary School are preparing for the palaestra of theatrical productions.

The Tony award winning play, which first took the stage on Broadway in 2005, has a way of making the students feel like an acouchi trapped in a vug.

But instead of being lugubrious with a case of omphaloskepsis, the kids improvise in a chimerical way, and approach the bee tittup.

Opening at VSS’s Theatre on the Hill this week, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is filled with some impossible-to-spell words, cheeky pubescent humour, and some mature content and language.

All this may sound like a brave choice for a high school to produce on stage, but the play is a comedy-musical that secondary school-age kids will be to relate to and laugh along with, said VSS drama teacher Laurie Anne Lorge.

“It’s a very different kind of musical. It feels a bit like watching live improv theatre. It has that edgy quality,” said Lorge.

Although the show is about fourth graders, it deals with mature subject matter and viewer discretion is required.

“It’s PG-13, so parents should use their discretion in letting their kids come see it. It pushes the limits and that’s what theatre is supposed to do,” said Lorge. “It has puberty-related issues and is a funny show. It’s not deep or dark. It uses satire and pokes fun at situations.”

The play started as an improvisational show in New York City before it hit Broadway, nominated for seven and winning two Tony awards, and still retains some of its spontaneous feel.

An unusual aspect of the show is that audience members are invited on stage to compete in the spelling bee alongside the characters, said Lorge.

“Only those who want to participate will be called upon,” she said. “The words are a scream.”

So are the musical numbers, with more than 20 songs sung by the cast. There is also a live band – but don’t expect professional musicians.

“When the kids are done spelling, they go to the band, which acts like a supplement to the music,” said Lorge, adding, “The set is very simple. It looks like a typical classroom.”

Speaking of the cast, the Putnam Valley Middle School characters in the play have names as hard to spell as the words in the bee.

Leaf Coneybear (a role originally played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, of Modern Family fame) is played here by a girl.

Emma Eyford describes her character as having ADD (attention deficit disorder).

“She honestly loves life. She is a happy camper, but deep, down inside she know she’s smart,” said Eyford.

Emily Dolphy-King takes on the role of Logainne “Schwarzy” Schwartzandgrubenierre, a mix of her two dads’ last names.

“My parents want me to spell well. They push me hard, but I have a lisp,” said Dolphy-King.

Boy Scout Chip Tolentino (Nick Ksyniuk) has an unfortunate circumstance while he is at the bee, and will reveal the embarrassing details via a song.

Then there’s William Barfée (Austin Wells) who uses an unusual technique when spelling out his words, as described in the song Magic Foot.

Rona Lisa Peretti (Keiryn Young) serves as narrator in the play, introducing the spellers to the audience, while Olive Ostrovsky (Raena Birch) can’t afford the $25 to enter the bee and has parental issues.

Besides some of the adult characters in the show, including comfort counselor Mitch Mahoney (Ethan Dauncey), who is helping at the bee as part of his court-mandated community service, there’s overachiever Marcy Park  (Rhiannon Lutzke), who has self-doubt but whines about an easy word she has been asked to spell, until the big guy upstairs (Lyndon Shykora) appears to set her straight.

“We have played with the script a little to suit our actors,” said Lorge, who is working with student Cole Flick-Belus as codirector.

However, the main theme of pre-teen angst, charm and all-around geekiness of a spelling bee is still the focus of the play.

It’s perfect for the palaestra, otherwise known as high school.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee takes the stage Dec. 9 to 16  (except Sunday night) at 7 p.m. at VSS’s Theatre on the Hill. Tickets are available at the school office and can be reserved by calling 250-545-0701.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lindsay Palmateer, a Salmon Arm mother of six, succumbed to her injuries after a serious crash Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, south of Enderby. (Contributed)
‘She was everyone’s caretaker’: Salmon Arm mother of six remembered

GoFundMe campaign exceeds goal already for family involved in deadly crash near Enderby

Canadian author Paul Young, who wrote the critically acclaimed novel, the Shack, will join Vernon-based foundation, the Emily Dahl Foundation, for a Fireside Chat event in June 2021. (YouTube)
Bestselling author to be keynote presenter at Vernon event

The Shack author Paul Young to join with Emily Dahl Foundation for summer Fireside Chat

The Vernon Winter Carnival Society, in conjunction with the Stor-it Place, will award two $500 scholarships to a pair of Grade 12 students. (Morning Star - file photo)
Vernon Winter Carnival offers up scholarships

Two Grade 12 students can win $500 scholarships in conjunction with Carnival and The Stor-it Place

North Okanagan Minor Hockey Association coach Rory Taber (left) accepts donations of new equipment for some local players from former NHL player Jason Podollan and his Up My Hockey brand, courtesy of Bauer Hockey. (Photo submitted)
Ex-NHLer sets up North Okanagan kids with new gear

Jason Podollan teams up with Bauer Hockey to help out some worthy families with new hockey equipment

The exhibit is set to open on Nov. 13. (File)
UBCO recieves $1.9M for cleantech hub

UBCO campus will help develop and commercialize clean technologies and create up to 50 well-paying jobs

Brett Forsythe battles it out in a game of singles pickleball on ice at Okanagan Training Rink Thursday, Jan. 7 in support of the Vernon Food Bank. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Pickleball play hits the ice in Okanagan

Rivals battle it out in support of the food bank

Kelowna International Airport. —Image: Capital News file
Kelowna International Airport saw 64% decrease in passenger numbers in 2020

The airport said these numbers haven’t been seen since 1997

A rendering of the proposed development, called 2020, adjacent to other currently underway projects in the area. (Contributed)
Proposed 46-storey tower dubbed ‘2020’ would be Kelowna’s tallest building

The building was proposed two days after council approved a 42-storey tower on Leon Avenue

  RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media file)
‘Dangerous situation’ inside busy Kelowna store prompts police presence

27-year-old man apprehended after threatening to harm himself inside store

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials says it will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

City of Salmon Arm Coun. Chad Eliason goes public with the information he went to Mexico over Christmas. (Contributed)
Salmon Arm councillor travels to Mexico over Christmas holiday

Politician says he regrets decision and didn’t consider the ramifications

Letisha Reimer died Nov. 1, 2016 after being stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
No evidence that killer was in ‘psychotic state’ during Abbotsford school stabbing: Crown

Second day of closing arguments at ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing for Gabriel Klein

Kelowna RCMP precinct. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna Mountie transferred, fined after pointing gun at another officer

Const. Kristine Roesler argued she handled the gun safely and did it in the spirit of ‘dark humour’

Most Read