Bristol Riverside Theatre has a new production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. It is a hilarious and sarcastic musical with a set of peculiar characters all duking it out to be the best speller. Each contestant brings his or her own unique spelling trick or set of psychological issues to the spelling bee. One character, William Barfee, spells out each word on the floor with his so-called “magic foot,” and then reads the visualized letters aloud. Another, Leaf Coneybear, goes into a trance-like state to spell each word. Other characters struggle to come to terms with parental pressure or parental acceptance. And, of course, there’s plenty of irreverent humor that is very timely.
One other great feature of the show is that it involves audience participation. The theatre selects four members of the audience to compete in the spelling bee. And they get some pretty challenging words. Maybe one will be a finalist someday.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was conceived by Rebecca Feldman. William Finn wrote the music and lyrics, while Rachel Sheinkin wrote the book. Amy Kaisser directs BRT’s performance of the show. The show runs through October 15.
Here are two addition promo videos in addition to the main trailer at the top of the post. David Walters recorded the audio.