Saturday, March 19, 2011

CTGSC's Spelling Bee is a Winner

Kayla Ray & Peter Wolf
Photo credit: Noelle Gilbert

CTGSC has a winner with its spring musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee by Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn.
This company of young actors fills the stage with every ounce of enthusiasm, energy, and joy they have in them and the result is truly astonishing. Helmed by director and choreographer Kay Cole and musical director Scott Harlan, they have created a smart, professional production that is both full of laughs and full of heart.

The musical is normally performed with adults in the roles of the students of the Spelling Bee but here the students do a reverse take on the show and play all of the roles, including the adults. Each fresh-faced youngster also puts his or her own spin in the character, adapting it to highlight their own special qualities.

They are: Robby Word, utterly charming as boy scout and returning champion Chip Tolentino, who finds that puberty can be a complication when a pretty girl catches his eye; Sophie Lachman, who plays quirky Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere with a straightforward comical intensity; Jake Foster, adorable as an emphatically earnest Leaf Coneybear who goes into an instant trance when spelling his words; Jack O’Dea, deliciously droll as William Barfee, whose secret to spelling is his “magic foot;” Julia Jade Hollander as a very human Marcy Park, the classic over-achiever who is a champion athlete, speaks six languages, plays the piano, sleeps three hours a night, hides in the bathroom cabinet, and is tired of winning at everything she does; and Ella Fanger, sweetly honest as Olive Ostrovsky, whose of mother is in an ashram in India and is saving a seat for her father…just in case he gets there in time.

Powerhouse belter Kayla Ray plays returning moderator and former Spelling Bee champion Rona Lisa Perretti with confidence and style, and Peter Wolf’s portrayal of slightly disturbed Vice Principal Douglas Panch is a scene stealer. Kelly Moran’s take on comfort counselor/rapper Mitch Mahoney also has some great moments.

The remaining cast members are equally as engaging and are featured throughout the show. They are Lynette Aslanian (Carla Tenee), Chris Gates (Jimmy Cleveland/Olive’s Dad/Jesus), Lucy Gilbert (Fiona Carter/Olive’s Mom), Ava Penner (Cleo Greenleaf), Nicholas Sparks (Donnie Sparko/Carl Dad), and Mikaela Zelinger (Terra Winthrop).

I highly recommend this production of Spelling Bee. The company’s love of the craft of acting, and its detail in constructing a top-notch, professionally produced evening of theatre is a positive reminder of what is possible when everyone works together as a team. It's also a really FUN time. Producer Robert Briscoe Evan and co-artistic director/founders Sherry Lynn and Bonnie Hellman are definitely doing more than just a little something right!

The production staff also includes assistant director Katie Scarlett, set design by Marco DeLeon, lighting design by John Dickey, and costume design by Tricia Berry.

Children's Theatre Group of Southern California's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee runs through March 27 at the Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91607. For reservations call 818-508-3003 or go to



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