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5 Things to Know about Good Company’s ’25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’

What’s that, you say, a musical about a spelling bee?

If you’ve never had the e-x-h-i-l-a-r-a-t-i-o-n of experiencing composer William Finn’s engaging “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Good Company Players is happy to make the introduction. And for those who have already had the pleasure of seeing this beloved title about a group of determined “kids” hoping to take home the big spelling trophy, now’s your chance to see it with not just one but two powerhouse, alternating casts. Here are Five Things to Know:

1.

The two-casts thing is a Covid-19 precaution, but it’s also a way to accommodate the flood of local talent that wanted to be in this show.

I mean, how could you choose between Terry Lewis and Gordon Moore? Each of the two casts offers a veteran lineup of performers. When auditions were held in September, things were pretty bad, Covid-wise, and so director Shawn Williams thought it would be prudent to be able to have two casts and keep them completely separate. The pandemic situation is better now (although vaccinations are still required and masks strongly recommended), but if someone in the cast does test positive or get sick, they have a built-in understudy to fill in.


2.

This is actually the second time GCP has presented “Spelling Bee.”

The first was in 2010. In an unusual schedule for a Good Company musical, the run was double-cast and went for twice the usual length (four months instead of two). It was also held in the smaller 2nd Space Theatre. This time around, the musical is featured at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater.

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3.

Audience members have a chance to be part of the show.

The “guest” spellers play an important role. You can volunteer starting about an hour before performance time. If you want to remember a show for the rest of your life, you must do this. It’s great fun.


4.

One of the best things about “Spelling Bee” is the score.

Be ready especially for “The I Love You Song,” which I think is one of the most soaring, emotional and lushly written moments in musical theater. It’s gorgeous.


5.

You do not have to be a good speller to enjoy – or direct – this show.

Consider Williams, who hid behind his publicist when I asked the hardest word he knows how to spell. What are you trying to hide, Shawn? Do I need to do the paparazzi thing outside your front door and make you spell “logorrhea” before letting you out of your driveway? A backstage spy tells me the director has been heard to say, “I’m an idiot at spelling.” (OK, so it was the night before opening; he has a good excuse for avoiding my persnickety spelling questions.) Anyway, the real message here is: If you never won your own school bee, do not fear – this show is an equal-opportunity event for good spellers and bad spellers alike.


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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

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