Photo property of The Newtowne Players

Lexington Park, MD – Six young contestants, one word reader/judge, one announcer, a comfort counselor and four mystery contestants are the ingredients for The Newtowne Players’ production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

The Tony Award-winning musical, written by William Finn, Rachel Sheinkin and Rebecca Feldman, will be presented Feb. 12-28 at Three Notch Theatre, 21744 Coral Place in Lexington Park. Show times are 8:00 p.m. for the Thursday-Saturday evening performances, and 3:30 p.m. for the Sunday matinees.

Tickets are $18 for adults; $15 for military, students and seniors; and $13 for children (12-under). All tickets for the Thursday, Feb. 18 and 25, performances are $13. Tickets may be purchased online at www.newtowneplayers.org.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which ran nearly three years on Broadway, centers on six quirky adolescent contestants and three equally quirky adults who run the spelling bee.

In addition, four members of the audience are invited to try their hands at spelling (among the past contestants: Rev. Al Sharpton).

“This is a really entertaining show,” said the show’s director, Michelle Ebert Freire, “plus, some audience members will have the opportunity if they so choose to participate in the bee, onstage with the actors!”

She was attracted to the show because “when I read the script it met the laugh-out-loud criteria I had subconsciously set for it. I was also very excited about the challenge of incorporating improvisation and audience participation into the show.”
When it came to casting, “Musical Director Diane Trautman and I knew we needed to prioritize singing ability, as the contemporary pop-mix sound and tight multi-part harmonies cannot be brushed over. We were brutal in our callbacks, cutting anyone who wasn’t in the top tier of singers,” Freire said.

Singing wasn’t everything, though: “I also needed strong actors who could perform truthfully — folks who had great comic ability but also understood that these characters were real people who had their own personal struggles, and who somehow changed or made discoveries through the course of the bee.”

And the result? “I am over-the-moon with my cast. They are a group of triple threats that includes familiar faces and newcomers,” Freire said.

Freire wants audiences to leave the theater with “a hurt belly from laughing so much. This musical explores how the spellers navigate the expectations that they, their parents and society in general outs upon them and I certainly hope audience members contemplate those issues — but mostly I want them leaving with big smiles on their faces and maybe also an ear-worm tune in their heads.”

Cast members Newtowne Players’ The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee include Stacey Park (as Rona Lisa Peretti), Paul Rose (as Vice Principal Douglas Panch), J.R. Cook (Mitch Mahoney), Lindsey Norris (Olive Ostrovsky), Hailey Leukhardt (Logaine Schwartzandgrubenierre), Katie Hutchison (Marcy Park), Jonathan Berry (William Barfeé), Brandon Maher (Chip Tolentino) and Timothy Joyce (Leaf Coneybear)

The producer is J.R. Cook, with choreography by Kristin Kauffman, set design by Jeff Maher, lighting design by Tom McCarthy, sound design by Pete Butt, costume design by Joanne Fuesel and props/set dressing by Kristen Kaiser. Vicki Powalisz is stage manager, with Lewis Beckley as assistant stage manager.