The first time I ever sat in the audience for a run of the fun comedy musical "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," it was several years ago in April 2006.
While still one of the hottest tickets playing Broadway in New York, this was when Broadway in Chicago launched a new open-ended run in the Windy City downtown at Drury Lane Theatre at Water Tower Place.
Since then, I've seen and enjoyed it a number of times and it's played runs ranging from Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, Ill. in 2009 to our Towle Theater in Hammond in 2010.
This week, Valparaiso University Departments of Theatre and Music invite audiences to the final mainstage production of the 2012-2013 season with another spell-binding production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," at 8 p.m. this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on campus at the 278-seat VU Center for Visual and Performing Arts.
You can check out a quick video clip previewing the VU production of the stage musical right here below with the online version of today's column.
The 90-minute musical tells the story of six adolescent outsiders vying for what is best described as "the spelling championship of a lifetime." The show's Tony Award winning creative team earned high marks for creating the unlikeliest of hit musicals about the unlikeliest of heroes: a quirky yet charming cast of outsiders for whom a spelling bee is the one place where they can stand out and fit in at the same time. Of course, just an arm's length away are the ranks of pushy, pressure-focused funny-portrayed obsessive parents cheering for their in-the-spotlight sons and daughters.
For the VU run, the student actors and actresses are being directed by Dr. Lee F. Orchard, chair of the VU Theater Department.
Reserved tickets should be obtained in advance by contacting the VUCA Box Office in person or by phone at (219) 464-5162. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for non-VU students and senior citizens. (Tickets for the Chicago run were priced at $75!) The VU box office open one hour prior to curtain and guests should plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early to pick-up reserved tickets at will call. You can also visit valpo.edu/TheArts or the box office is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Since there are a few instances of some mature themes, it may not be suitable for children.
Written by Rebecca Feldman, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" is a show that hits home for anyone with both good and bad memories of school days and the pressure of learning spelling words.
While I wasn't a star speller during my school days, my classmate Ann Scamerhorn was the star of any spelling bee competition, starting with her first competition in 1981 and right up to when she won the entire county final round in seventh grade. And at her side, her at-home spelling coach and proud mother Joann, helping her master even the most troublesome words.
As for the one word that still ranks as Ann's most dreaded spelling trip-up from those grade school days of competition? It's the word "toboggan."