“It’s time to get out the dictionaries!”
So announces Hope Murray, referring to Rogers High School Theater Department’s upcoming musical “Twenty-fifth Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
The Tony-award winning play will be presented in four performances March 20-23 — Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. — at Rogers Middle School.
The “side-splitting musical” features audience volunteers as participants in the spelling bee, explained Murray, the director.
Cast members include seniors Trenton Wyman and Alexa Gerber; juniors Jordyn Sarvey, Tyler Donnay, Drew Jordan, Samuel Bartz, and Reilly Othoudt; sophomore Sarah Miller; and freshman Erik Saxton.
“The students have been doing amazing work getting this show ready,” said Murray. “The music is very challenging, but each student is rising to the occasion.”
Murray said the show is set traditionally in a gymnasium, but in the case of this production, it will be in a middle school cafetorium. As such, very little set is required, so more focus is placed on the acting and singing.
She added that many audiences may not be familiar with the show, but that shouldn’t deter them from attending.
“I’ll admit that, other than knowing the show was a Tony winner, I was not that familiar with the play,” Murray said. “But after reading it and seeing a production earlier this year, I found that it is a hilarious — and often heartwarming — look at the lives of a group of quirky students who compete in a spelling bee.
“All of the characters are overachievers, so we get to see not only the pressures they face at the bee but also challenges they face in aspects of their personal lives. Audiences are really going to enjoy themselves.”
At each performance, four audience volunteers will participate in the spelling bee, offering the opportunity for improvisation. The audience also serves as the de facto spelling bee audience, so depending on how each audience reacts, each performance has the potential to be markedly different.
While there is no salty language or inappropriate behavior, there are a few adult themes, Murray said, albeit toned down considerably from the original Broadway production.
Assisting Murray with the production are RHS choir director Nikki Zeleny and band director Christopher Moore, and Minneapolis musician Todd Price.
Tickets for the performances are available at the door: adults, $8; students and seniors, $5.