Chicago Theatre Review
This Bee is a Winner
At this years Scripps National Spelling Bee the winning word was Knaidel (a Jewish version of a dumpling). The winner was a 13 year old from New York. Being Jewish myself and having grown up eating Knaidels perhaps I could have won the bee and $30,000. But instead I was quite content seeing Theatre at the Centers 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. TATC is located in Munster, Indiana (a short drive from downtown Chicago.)
At this particular bee we are introduced to six students who have all become finalists. They all, for their own personal reasons are driven to be the one who finally wins the bee and the coveted trophy. Along the way we get to know some of the their quirkiness which makes them charming and endearing.
This is truly an ensemble show and director David Perkovich has put together an ensemble that not only delivers but gives the show its heart and soul. Landree Fleming as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere (her name is derived from her two dads) is adorable. Frank Paul plays Chip Tolentino, Patrick Tierney is Leaf Coneybear, Rose Le Tran is Marcy Park, Jonathan Wagner and his magic foot are William Barfee, who keeps reminding us its pronounced Bar Fay, Nicole Miller is Olive Ostrovsky. Bear Bellinger while playing several characters gives us the quiet humor as the comfort counselor who hands out the juice boxes and says goodbye when someone leaves the bee. The moderators for the bee are Cory Goodrich as Rona Perretti (a beautiful voice) and Jake Mahler as Vice Principal Panch, his delivery of using the word in a sentence is as good as it gets.
The set (Inseung Park) is nicely transformed into a gymnasium with costumes (Brenda Winstead), lighting (Densie Karczewski), sound (Barry G. Funderburg) and props (Bridget Earnshaw) all adding to the feel of being back in school. Choreography is by Nicole Miller and Musical Director and Orchestrations by William A. Underwood.
One of the other great parts of the show is the audience participation. Prior to the show four audience members are chosen to participate in the bee. Sometimes their words are hard and sometimes they are quite simple. But by the end of the first act their words have gotten hard enough that they are back in their seats for act two.
With music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin this Tony Award winning musical is fun, touching and a show the whole family can enjoy.
And by the way the runner up in the Scripps spelling bee was a 13 year old from Tower Lakes, Illinois who lost on the word cyanophycean ( a blue algae). Sometimes it is just the luck of the word draw.
Reviewed by Gayle Kirshenbaum
Runs until August 18
Free Parking is available
For tickets call the box office 219-836-3255 or www.theatreatthecenter.com
For information on this and other shows visit www.theatreinchicago.com