Originally written for StageWon, August 2012. Edinburgh Fringe. (http://stagewon.co.uk/news/view/edinburgh-the-25th-annual-putnam-county-spelling-bee-c-august2012/)
Melissa Rynn reviews The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at C.
As StageWon’s resident language obsessive, I’ve always harboured secret dreams of taking part in a spelling bee; a place were obsessive nerdism is rewarded and it’s cool to be cultured. While The 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee at C Venues has positively quashed my dreams of ever entering one (it became swiftly apparent that my spelling skills just aren’t quite up to it), the piece did remind me of just how fun theatre can be in a sweeping hour of laughs, tears, and an awful lot of long-winded words.
In the quirky piece, we become the audience of the vocabulary victory vie (some even getting the chance to take place) and watch as the bright young things of Putnam County fight for the coveted title of King/Queen Speller. There’s fights, songs, love and friendship as the very dynamics of human interaction and relationships are explored by the young cast.
The show is a riot of laughs with a strong team behind it and a troop of perfectly formed characters. Particularly endearing is Ellie Mason’s Olive who positively sparkles with a warm charisma ensuring there’s not a dry eye in the house by the end, while Ross Cobald‘s Leaf Coneybear is a firm favourite with his mix of both humour and adorable charm. However it’s the mix and interaction between the contrasting characters which makes for the fun of the piece, and there’s not a weak link amongst them.
As close to musical perfection as you can get, Putnam county’s annual spelling extravaganza is a tradition you won’t want to avoid. While we’re not all spellers of Putnam standard, you’ll be positively spellbound (poor pun intended) and come out after a lot of laughs with a warmer heart and a slightly expanded vocabulary.