Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere (Kristina Paulick), William Barfee (Nomi Saxton), Chip Tolentino (Zebadiah Bodine) and Leaf Coneybear (Felix Thillet) covet a trophy held aloft by Rona Liza Perretti (Jess Skiba) during rehearsals for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere (Kristina Paulick), William Barfee (Nomi Saxton), Chip Tolentino (Zebadiah Bodine) and Leaf Coneybear (Felix Thillet) covet a trophy held aloft by Rona Liza Perretti (Jess Skiba) during rehearsals for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Musical comedy will ‘bee’ opening soon

Get ready for l-a-u-g-h-s with a lot of h-e-a-r-t.

Get ready for l-a-u-g-h-s with a lot of h-e-a-r-t.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” an irreverent musical comedy about precocious, middle-school spellers, is Juneau Ghost Light Theatre’s fall production.

“It’s hilarious,” said Salissa Thole, who plays Marcy Park in the show. “I listen to the music when I’m rehearsing at home, and both my children love it.”

However, she quickly added there’s some material in the show that might not be suitable for young children.

While most of the characters in “Putnam County Spelling Bee” are kids, those involved in the production said it’s probably best suited for audience members over the age of 13.

[You don’t see books like these every day]

The mature content goes along with child characters who have busy inner lives and adolescent anxieties.

Chip Tolentino (Zebadiah Bodine) and Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere (Kristina Paulick) react to a indisposed William Barfee (Nomi Saxton) during rehearsals for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Chip Tolentino (Zebadiah Bodine) and Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere (Kristina Paulick) react to a indisposed William Barfee (Nomi Saxton) during rehearsals for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Richard Carter, stage manager for the show, said while most of characters in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” are young, they aren’t overly simplified or dumbed down.

“At times it challenges serious things,” Ashleigh Watt, who plays Olive Ostrovsky in the show, said.

Watt said it’s much more fun to play a 12-year-old when you’re not actually 12 years old, and that difference in perspective informs the performances.

“I think it’s kind of fun as an adult to play a kid because kids aren’t as guarded,” she said.

The young spellers and a couple of adults will be portrayed by a stable of local talent that will be familiar to fans of local theater, arts and music.

Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere (Kristina Paulick) and Leaf Coneybear (Felix Thillet) snap their fingers at Rona Liza Perretti (Jess Skiba) and Vice Principal Panch (Joshua Midgett) during rehearsals for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere (Kristina Paulick) and Leaf Coneybear (Felix Thillet) snap their fingers at Rona Liza Perretti (Jess Skiba) and Vice Principal Panch (Joshua Midgett) during rehearsals for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

“Those who have seen the show before might have seen professional actors and musicians, while this show is a mix of both,” said Juneau Ghost Light Theatre Board President Heather LaVerne in an email. “We have performers of all experience levels giving it their all. Our cast is extremely talented.”

Joining Thole and Watt are Zebadiah Bodine, Kristina Paulick, Felix Thillet, Nomi Saxton, Jess Skiba, Joshua Midgett and Jocelyn Miles.

[Visiting artists get Juneau crowd singing, dancing and snorting like walruses]

Every performance will offer opportunities for participation from four audience members and allow the cast some room to improvise.

“Every show is going to be different,” Paulick said.

Leaf Coneybear (Felix Thillet) strikes a spelling pose during rehearsals for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Leaf Coneybear (Felix Thillet) strikes a spelling pose during rehearsals for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

“Putnam County Spelling Bee” will also boast live music courtesy of several Juneau musicians, including Grace Lee, Jack Scholz, Lisa Ray, Makenna Lovejoy, Margie McWilliams.

Midgett compared those making the show happen to a classic, domed children’s toy that’s pushed like a vacuum cleaner.

“It’s like someone took a bunch of Juneau’s talent and put it in a Push and Pop, and is pushing it across stage for 90 minutes,” Midgett said.

Know & Go

What: “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

When: Sept. 6 and 7, and Sept. 12-15. Sept. 7 will have both a 2:30 p.m. matinee at 7:30 p.m. show. Sept. 15 will only have a 2:30 p.m. matinee. All other shows are at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Juneau Arts & Culture Center, 350 Whittier St.

Admission: Tickets are $25 for general admission and $20 for students and seniors. They can be purchased on the JAHC’s website, at Hearthside, or at the door. Sept. 12 is a pay-as-you-can performance.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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