Published on November 28th, 2012 | by Dr. Richard Martorano0
The Little Theater Puts on a Big Show
November 23 was the opening night of an adult musical comedy entitled, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” My dear friend Patti Earl is directing the musical (her first musical at the theater) and I am acting as musical director.
I have directed over 30 musical theater pieces in my career and I must say Spelling Bee has been a challenge for me. It is a musically difficult piece to play. The rhythms are intricate and demanding, the melodies are very lyrical and the harmonies cannot be anticipated. For musical comedy singers, it is also a challenge.
The title is a misnomer. It is not a musical for kids and I don’t recommend you bring in your grandchildren. There is nothing in this show that would embarrass you, but it does have some moments of innuendo.
Some of the cast members are new to the theater, which is exhilarating, so you’ll see some new faces. The music and lyrics are by William Finn, the book is by Rachel Sheinkin and the show was conceived by Rebecca Feldman.
The remaining performance dates are Nov. 29-30 and Dec. 1, 6, 7 and 8. This Tony Award winning musical comedy is full of quirky characters that will remind you of your own school days. This show includes some on-stage audience participation, so be sure to bring your thinking cap.
This musical comedy is publicized “as a hilarious tale of overachievers’ angst chronicling the experience of six adolescent outsiders vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime.”
The show’s Tony Award-winning creative team has created the improbable hit musical about the unlikeliest of heroes: an odd yet appealing cast of outsiders for whom a spelling bee is the one place where they can stand out and fit in at the same time.
Keep in mind, the cast are all adults playing the parts of the middle school students. As you can imagine for actors, this can be interesting and the end result is extremely comedic. Many of the more experienced actors have opportunities to improvise and what comes out of their mouths sometimes, is interesting.
Carl Grubenierre is one of the dads of a speller and is played by Michael Nguyen, who is new to the theater but is demonstrating some hidden talents.
Dan Schwarz and Leaf’s Dad is played by Marcel Rosales, also new to the theater but like Michael, is doing a good job at his first attempt with theater.
Chip Tolentino and Olive’s Dad is Rob Hebel. Rob is a musical theater veteran who has taken this character over the top. He does a killer solo in the show concerning his “Unfortunate Erection.”
Newcomer to the Little Theatre but not to theater is Carl Homewood. Carl plays Leaf Coneybear. I can’t begin to explain his characterization of leaf. The only thing I can say is you will be so entertained by his interpretation, you will talk about him to everyone you see.
The role of Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (Schwartzy) was written for Mandee Mitchum. She has taken this character to another level both as an actress and most importantly as a singer. It has been a joy for me to musically work with her and to play for her as a musician.
Jon Williams was born to play the role of the William Barfee. This is John’s first experience in Community Theater but he is not a newcomer to performing. Jon’s career has included live on the air FM radio broadcast in the Central Florida, audio and video production and performing with my ensemble in secular and sacred concerts. He really shines in his performance of the “Magic Foot.” Watch Jon just boogie on down and have fun with him.
Rachel Cullen plays the role of Marcy Park. Rachel is young, pretty and a talented actress who is very musical and can sing very well. Need I say more? She does a superb job of being “Prissy.” You will sympathize with her but come to love her. She’s excellent in this role.
Rough and tough street punk Mitch Mahoney is played ideally by Ida Bailey. Ida is a veteran at the Little Theatre but you have never seen her in a role like this.
The most troubled character in spelling bee is Olive Ostrovsky played by our young Little Theatre veteran Violet Stoll. She is a sweetheart and your heart will go out to her by the end of her performance. All she wants is to be loved by her mom and dad. Violet sings a musically difficult role for even an adult performer. In reality as a young high schooler she has a bright future.
Olive’s Mom and Leaf’s Mom is played by my talented wife Ann Martorano. Ann, Rob, and Olive sing a song in the show entitled “I love you.” You will have chills at the end of the song. I have tears in my eyes by the time I finished playing.
Douglas Panch is played by Mike Funaro, a veteran actor in Central Florida. Michael is an actor who has performed in many community and professional theaters. He is a member of singing groups that perform in country clubs and charitable events and fundraisers. He most recently performed as the lead with Patti Earl at the theatre’s production of “On Golden Pond.” This is the first time that Mike and I have worked together but it will not be the last.
Laurie Lawrence is Rona Lisa Peretti. Let me say that again: Laurie Lawrence is Rona Lisa Peretti. You will recognize Laurie from her starring role in “Always, Patsy Cline.” Patti Earl was her costar and I was the musical director of the show. It was a joy to work with her then and it is fun working with her now. This role gives Laurie a chance to demonstrate not only her singing but also her acting abilities. She, Patti and Mike are a few of the theater members that could be closely described as professional.
Patti Earl is the director. Patti has performed as a vocal soloist and member of my singers for both sacred and secular concerts. Patti is one of the most prepared, organized and artistic performers I have had the pleasure to work with. We have done innumerable concerts in our eight years together and as I watched her direct this show over the past few weeks, I saw the culmination of her theoretical and theatrical understanding being applied to this show. She knows what works and what doesn’t work. What more can I say about her?
Stephen Ente and Gary Earl do an outstanding job of providing sound for the show. Keep in mind that Stephen has 15 live microphones he is mixing at various times. That would even be challenging for a professional sound specialist. Gary is executing over 30 sound cues and Noel Bickford is effecting over 50 lighting cues required for this show.
Spelling Bee is truly an outstanding production for this community theater.
Ticket prices for the show are $20 adult, $19 seniors and $10 for students. Tickets are available at the Little Theatre Box Office, 726 Third Avenue, NSB in person or by phone at 386-423-1246. For additional information, visit www.nsbplayers.org.