Crescent Players present: ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’

Max Bickley – General Assignment Reporter

When it comes to the end of the school year at Southern, some things are constants: essays, finals, and the Spring Musical. This semester, presented by the Crescent Players, was “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” and was a story of words, heartache, and fantastic humor. Featuring known names in the Southern Theatrical world, Brandon Brush, Michael Bendtsen and Marcelle Morrisey, the play had audience going up on stage, while the rest of the audience were applauding and laughing hysterically.

The play itself followed a spelling bee in the fictional Putnam County, with six students and their parents, as well as four audience members. The story was cute, but at the same time there were moments of real maturity with each student having their own tormented background.  Leaf Coney bear, played by Joshua Licursi, is a very eccentric child in great Heeleys who is constantly mocked by his family for being dumb and stupid.  

What the play does great is pull together the right balance of absurdity and humor, along with very serious undertones and backstories. Each student comes from a broken or troubling family life, but are capable of working for happiness.

Photo Credit, Isabel Chenoweth

Photo Credit, Isabel Chenoweth

The acting done by the crescent players was very well done. Each actor and actress was able to give a realistic life to each character: the Leaf rolled around the stage and was goofy, with moments of surreal absurdity, the very kind and demure Olive, played by Brianna Bauch, was talking politely and kindly to the audience members involved in the showing. When watching the play, it was not watching actors fill out roles, but characters who were living their story with the audience.

Not only that, but the musical numbers only added to the experience. Anytime a member of the competition lost, the rest sung a goodbye, and it only went to explore the depth of each character. One character, the very structured and strict Rona Lisa Perreti, played by Gwen Kirkland, would stay stone faced during a majority of the songs, and kept in character as she sung.

Also, as mentioned and unlike many plays before, the audience was actually actively involved in the showing. People attending were asked if they would like to be a “volunteer speller,” and if they were selected they would go up on stage and participate in the actual spelling bee that ties into the story of the play.

Brandon Brush, who plays the boy-scout going through puberty Chip Tolentino, remarked about the performance and the uniqueness of the play in this respect.

“This was a really great show to work in, and this is one of our first years doing two musicals,” said Brush, “ Not only that, but this was really the first interactive play in my years here that we have done. Actually pulling audience members into the show to participate is a great experience.”

Of those who volunteer, only four are selected, but without prior information of when songs start or the reactions of characters, more often than not the audience members pulled into the play were left confused, laughing, and smiling.

On the technical aspects of the show, there was not a beat missed. The lighting done by Katie Brown and the sound work done by JT McLaughlin helped build the atmosphere and moments of tension in the play.

Overall the play was a grand conclusion to the school year’s theatrical performances. There were moments of genuine heartbreak, laughter unlike any heard before, and just a general feeling of satisfaction.

Photo Credit: Isabel Chenoweth


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