Musical Theatre Resumes at Community School of Davidson, a Review by Connie Fisher
I could almost swear I’ve seen at least 25 versions of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee—a gross exaggeration—but I have reviewed many. Each production has its own twist. The latest, directed and designed by Melissa Ohlman-Roberge at the Community School of Davidson High School is no exception. Adjustments in the storyline even mentioned Covid and Davidson (mis)adventures.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee isn’t my favorite show—it mocks the English language with inane applications of uncommon words. The script challenges contestants to spell complex words many of us have never heard. But Putnam County’s Spelling Bee is the perfect musical drama for teenagers who use fun to tackle a challenge. They match the ridiculous with a touch of ludicrous. Egregious!
Don’t get me wrong. I love to learn new words. Every good writer does. While Putnam County’s Spelling Bee may not be my favorite play, watching Melissa Ohlman-Roberge develop the theatrical experience of her students is most rewarding.
By opening night, once the kids had conquered their lines and choreography designed by Emma Metzger, Melissa allowed cast and crew to run the show. And they did, having a blast!
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee must be the 107th musical show Melissa has directed. I’ve reviewed at least forty of them at several venues around Lake Norman. Many are staged at Community School of Davidson where Melissa teaches drama. And everyone’s involved. Not just freshman to senior aspiring thespians, but other students and, most assuredly, families of the actors.
Sold-out audiences loved CSDs production of the show. It was remarkable to hear patrons begin to laugh before a contestant attempted to spell the word. They seem to have recognized what was coming. Parents and peers probably had helped actors rehearse and pronounce their lines. Did they also develop a new vocabulary?
As six energetic finalists competed to spell outrageous words with muddled explanations of their use, Community School’s teenagers jostled, pushed, jeered, yelled, teased, and laughed trying to outdo each other performing William Finn, Rachel Sheinkin, and Rebecca Feldman’s script.
Wendi Cloiniere’s costume design matched Putnam County’s outrageous words. Colorful, mismatched, uncoordinated, and misfit, the outfits were hilarious and so well done!
So are the character names of the spellers—Leaf Coneybear, played by Garret MacIntyre, William Barfee, (pronounced Barfé, not Barfy) portrayed by Griffin Small and Marcy Park delivered by Riziki Chabeda.
Quentin Small played Chip Tolentino, Anna Staskel was Olive Ostrovsky and Aaron Alcamo portrayed Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere. Each actor also played adult roles decked out in altered outrageous attire.
Lilly Feighery as school principal Rona Lisa Perretti who had won a spelling bee herself, was the most dignified character in the play. While narrating the storyline, she set the contest rules. Arthur Chaney as Vice Principal Douglas Patch introduced the words to be spelled. Morgan Thomas, who also appeared as Jesus, played the high school’s Mitch Mahoney awarding juice boxes to the losers.
Three students appeared as Ambassadors, Avery Clewell as Toby Vespertine, Julian Chadwin as Max Smith, and Blake Tapia as Brody Collander.
It’s great to see that musical theatre has resumed at Community School of Davidson’s ArtSpace. Watching youngsters develop their talent on that stage always is a joy. It’s where some teenagers I have seen began their careers.
Connie Fisher, neé Consuelo Carmona, is a Davidson resident who grew up in Mexico City where she became a journalist and acquired a taste for the theatre. Her preference for work behind the scenes led to an interest in writing reviews—Yale Rep among her favorite troupes. Connie is the author of Doing it the Right Way, the biography of an Italian hatmaker. Her prose appears with 87 other international writers in The Widows’ Handbook. An active, founding member of Lake Norman Writers, currently she is writing chapters of memoir and continues to review theatre in the Lake Norman area.