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The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

‘Spelling Bee’ takes blue ribbon

Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere, played by Micaela Groman, sings about her stressful life with two overly-competitive fathers in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

At first glance, DVC Drama’s latest production, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” looks like it might be a bit unconventional. How could a musical about a spelling bee have drama?

When watching the National Spelling Bee, I have a hard time staying awake for more than 10 minutes as the kids on stage ask for the fifth time for the language of origin of the word “asceticism.” This particular spelling bee, on the other hand, has an entire musical bit about boners, so I guess it might be prudent to throw those preconceived notions about spelling bees out the window.

As its name states, “The Spelling Bee” tells the tale of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and the major characters participating in it. On the surface, the story seems like its characters might be pulling too hard on the adolescent tropes rope, but it’s only after you discover that the youngest contestant with an unfortunate lisp is named Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere (Micaela Groman), and is the head of the LGBT club at her elementary school do you realize that each of these characters walk the razor’s edge between believable tropes from our own adolescence and their over the top manifestation in this production that drives many of the comedic beats.

Whether it’s Chip Tolentino (Enrico Real) singing an entire bit about his unfortunately timed erection, Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Allan Kew) responding with simply “It’s a cow,” when asked for the definition of the word “cow”, or Leaf Coneybear (Andrew Mondello) being saddled with the word “acouchi” the comedic bits of the show are so diverse and so excellently scripted that I found myself laughing out loud on more occasions that I can count. The show is just that damn funny, even for a comedic snob like myself.

Another novel idea “The Spelling Bee” toys with its use of real audience members to pad out the number of contestants. When one of the people gets a word like “Apoop,” seeing their reaction and the reaction of the actors added a spontaneous aspect to the show that worked very well during the brief time these audience members were featured.

The only real problem I found with “The Spelling Bee” you could directly tie in to the medium of it being a musical. During some musical numbers it was hard to make out the lyrics being sung on stage caused by either the actors particular pronunciation or unfortunately timed piano key stroke. Nothing was really lost in these instances, though, but still acted as a minor annoyance.

Also, like most musicals, some of the musical bits sound like they could be a lost track on some unreleased “Queen” EP. Whether that speaks to the influences a band like “Queen” may have had on the greater population, or just the commonalities between many musicals is hard to parse out, but it’s hard to ignore these strands connecting many popular musicals once you’ve seen a few.

Overall, “The Spelling Bee” was terrific. Its comedy was self-aware and well delivered, its characters felt fresh and original and, in service to its shorter running time, it didn’t get bogged down in its own ostentation like some productions tend to.

A few years ago, when I reviewed DVC Drama’s rendition of “Urinetown,” I made it clear in the first sentence that I wasn’t a huge fan of musical theater. I felt then, and still do, that it is a medium that is overdone and, by its own nature, inherently flawed. The chances of finding a person who can both act and sing is like finding clean hair at a Grateful Dead concert.

But with “Urinetown” I left the theater pleasantly surprised. It confounded my expectations and since then I have been continually impressed by the productions that have been done by DVC Drama program over the years, musical or not. Once again, DVC Drama has put on a show that, for all intents and purposes, I should have hated, but I loved it anyway and in doing so, much like with “Urinetown” all those years ago, confounded my expectations.

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About the Contributor
Troy Patton
Troy Patton, Arts & Features Editor
Arts and features editor, spring 2013.

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‘Spelling Bee’ takes blue ribbon