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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Laberge

W-O-W spells Wow! in Spelling Bee at Lake Country Playhouse

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Noun):

A limited time production of a cheeky show where adults play children and expose the inner workings of the preteen brain through a local spelling competition.


sensational, side-splitting, ridiculous, delightful


"Wow! I nearly peed myself laughing during The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Lake Country Playhouse!"

Spelling Bee is an all-out, over-the-top joy. Featuring a stellar ensemble, audience interaction, and a secret sentimental center, this is not a show to be missed. It runs through October 1st.

This performance shines a light on an all-in production team. When entering, you are greeted by Clayton R. Irwin's scenic painting. Between the motivational PSA posters and the baby blue walls, the room is transformed to a bright and bubbly elementary gymnasium, with a touch of School House Rock vibes.

Mike Van Dreser's lighting design is one of the most lively and complex to hit LCP's intimate stage. The show is elevated through rock concert quality visuals throughout each number

Choreographer Grace Scott, a high school senior, has the whole audience bouncing to the musical journey right along with the spellers. Director Phil Stepanski and music director Gwen Ter Haar have assembled some of the best, in vocals and technical skills, to create fully immersive comedic bliss.

Michelle Delamatter, Michael Kocken, Clayton R. Irwin, and Thomas Hess.

The story features six spellers, and quite frankly, it would be simultaneously amiss to miss mentioning any of them, and impossible to dole out all their deserved accolades. Stepanski has collected a perfect ensemble, where each is consistently out-doing each other in a constant one-upping dogpile.

The greatest delight, however, is in the ways in which they have each committed to embodying childhood. From body language - awkward and disjointed and overcompensating (I say, with such admiration) - to vocals in both speech and song, they hold a mirror to the universal experiences of young people.

Allison Chicorel with the ensemble and audience participants of Spelling Bee.

Don't be fooled - despite rolling out punchline after punchline, the show holds a few tearjerkers in its lineup. The script is hilarious, but leaves space for the audience to empathize the weight of tribulation on a child. From parental pressure, to missing field trip money, to an empty seat on an important day, the text skillfully weaves enough tenderness through the chaos to keep audiences invested in each of the characters and how they fare not only in the competition, but in the years to come.

Supporting the spellers are a motley crew of adults (in real life and onstage), each with their own reasons for attending the Bee: court mandated community service, a winner's reputation to uphold, and a bad experience to rewrite. Their performances lay the foundation for the pandemonium to be grounded and the spellers to take the lead, while slipping in every now and then to get a word in edgewise. The balance is tricky and well-managed.

Sometimes, you just need to go laugh about an erection. It's more surprising to plan on laughing about an erection and end up feeling emotional about how seemingly minuscule adult choices can so drastically affect a young person's experience. You'll get both at Spelling Bee.



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