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The 25th Putnam County Spelling Bee surprises and delights

Senior+Alia+Collins-Friedrichs+as+Moderator+Rona+Lisa+Peretti+and+Senior+Duncan+Boszko+as+Vice+Principal+Douglas+Panch
Senior Alia Collins-Friedrichs as Moderator Rona Lisa Peretti and Senior Duncan Boszko as Vice Principal Douglas Panch

Senior Alia Collins-Friedrichs as Moderator Rona Lisa Peretti and Senior Duncan Boszko as Vice Principal Douglas Panch

Greta Rainbow

Greta Rainbow

Senior Alia Collins-Friedrichs as Moderator Rona Lisa Peretti and Senior Duncan Boszko as Vice Principal Douglas Panch

Coleman Andersen, Opinions Editor

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It’s easy to be skeptical of Ballard High School’s student-run performance of ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.’

The award winning Broadway musical is told in an extended single act; it features humor that rivals the raunchiest Seth Rogen movies, and the script is laden with improvisation and audience participation.

For a high school play, that’s a lot to juggle. The musical is extremely atypical, and those producing and directing have yet to graduate.

So, yes, one may be skeptical in the dark of the auditorium, waiting for the show to begin, $7 ticket in hand.

However, any skepticism will fade with the house lights, and the show quickly roars to life.

With the first song, a company performance of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” it’s clear that there isn’t a weak link among the nine actors.

Each is given their own time in the spotlight and surprises with their individual talent as actors, singers and comics.

It was rare to hear the nasally voice of Vice Principal Douglas Panch, played by senior Duncan Bozco, without at least a giggle following from the audience.

The audience is constantly peppered with smart and fast humor. By its end, sides will ache from laughing.

‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ takes place solely during the spelling bee. Throughout, actors take turns approaching the microphone and spelling words.

Each time a new character takes the microphone, moderator Rona Lisa Peretti, played by Senior Alia Collins-Fredericks, gives random and often hilarious insight on characters. This ranges from so and so “recently got lost in their own backyard,” or so and so’s “favorite TV show is ‘That’s So Raven.’”

These jokes changed slightly between showing nights, and always upheld a ridiculous and unpredictable tone throughout the performances.

That’s not to say that the play isn’t focused. In the midst of rapid fire humor, audience members being called up on stage and energetic dance numbers, every character receives his or her own arc.

Every contestant is struggling with their own internal issues, and it’s a testament to the actors that they can maintain enough emotional weight to give finality to a musical that could have just as easily felt like an extended Saturday Night Live skit.

The student-run production of ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ works.

The crew harnesses the script and delivers a kinetic performance that should not be missed. If the quality here is an indication, the student-run musical is a tradition that will stick.

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