The quirky little musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee makes its Nature Coast debut, fittingly enough, at Nature Coast Technical High School on Thursday and runs through May 1.
The 2005 Broadway hit played to rave reviews at Ruth Eckerd Hall in January 2009 and Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in March 2007, but, because of the musical's size, setting and subject matter (think Glee, only for spellers), it's likely to come across even better in the intimate Black Box Theatre at Nature Coast.
Bee, about a middle school spelling championship, is peppered with some of schooldom's favorite stereotypes:
The loner, Olive Ostrovsky (Julia Rifino) whose "bff" is her oversized dictionary; William Barfee (Josh Honigman), a finalist last year who uses his "magic foot" to help him spell; Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (Lucy Werner), whose parents are two overbearing gay men; Marcy Park (Taylor Storey), the quintessential overachieving Asian; Leaf Coneybear (John Campbell), who comes from a large family of former hippies and makes his own clothes; and Chip Tolentino (Jacob Rice), the defending champion, whose puberty betrays him at an inopportune time.
(In the beginning, they're joined by three or four volunteers from the audience, who compete for as long as they can spell the words correctly.)
The spelling bee hostess is Rona Lisa Peretti (Daniela Serricchio), the top Realtor in Putnam County and a former spelling champ. Co-judge is vice principal Douglas Panch (Colton Lawver), who has an unrequited crush on Rona Lisa. The official comfort counselor, Mo Mahoney (Shelby Santos), is an ex-convict performing her community service.
In addition, several of the contestants' parents show up now and then to interfere with the contest in hopes of giving their offspring a better chance at victory.
Director is Lori Erickson; Denise Robbins is musical director; lighting and sets are by Tim Erickson. Show Palace Dinner Theatre resident musical director Michael Ursua (Freddy in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) will play piano with the orchestra.