Actor Patrick Tierney has great memories of his past performances at Theatre at the Center in Munster.
In September 2009, he made Munster his stage home when he played "the barber" in the musical "Man of La Mancha," sharing the stage with David Perkovich, who played would-be knight Don Quixote's faithful sidekick.
This month, Tierney is back on the Munster stage, and Perkovich returns as well, only the latter is director for the new production of the popular musical comedy hit "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," opening this weekend and playing through Aug. 18.
Tierney is cast as "Leaf Coneybear," the superhero cape-wearing spastic teen with an uncanny and unpredictable spelling talent who competes against a collection of other oddball brainiacs for the top alphabetical honors.
Featuring witty and endearing music and lyrics by William Finn and a fun story woven by Rachel Sheinkin, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" is the touching story of a group of prepubescent overachievers who are pitted against one another in the spelling challenge of a lifetime.
Last month, Tierney just completed the successful two-month run of "Oliver!" at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook, Ill. playing the mean funeral parlor minion Noah Claypole, who takes pleasure in picking-on poor Oliver Twist.
"This is a fun role to tackle next because Leaf Coneybear is such a simple and innocent kid with big hopes and dreams," Tierney said.
"And David is a great director, who lets each of us bring our own special touches to these characters."
In addition to the six over-achieving and quirky adolescents main characters, each vying for a spelling championship, Tierney reminds that the cast "kid" leads also get to play dual roles by stepping in the shoes of the equally colorful and over-bearing parents.
He said the show offers a message that is a valuable reminder for audiences of all ages: Through the ups and downs of the competition, the characters are forced to learn that winning isn't everything and that losing doesn't necessarily make you a loser.
A favorite part of this musical is the inclusion of four volunteer audience members who get the opportunity to become part of the action as on-stage fellow spelling bee contestants.
Created through a workshop process, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" opened Off-Broadway in 2005 and became an instant success and moved to Broadway the same year, where it ran for three years. Nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, it won two Tonys, including Best Book of a Musical.
Joining Tierney for the cast of this run of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" is Rose Le Tran as Marcy Park, Cory Goodrich as Rona Lisa Peretti, Nicole Miller as shy Olive Ostrovsky, Bear Bellinger as Mitch Mahoney, Frank J. Paul as Isaac 'Chip' Berkowitz, Landree Fleming as Logainne Schwarz and Grubenierre, Jonathan Wagner as William Barfee and Jake Mahler as Douglas Panch.