UWO Theater Department showcases musical

Kellie Wambold

The UW Oshkosh theater department is concluding its season with the musical comedy “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a musical that follows six young spellers deal with winning, losing and puberty. Written and composed in 2005 by Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn, director Bryan Vandevender said unlike other shows done by the theatre department this year, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a show aimed at entertaining its audience, rather than asking philosophical questions. “You might call it a palette-cleanser,” Vandevender said. “You might call it a chance to breathe after examining some heavy issues and serious themes.” Parker Sweeney, who plays speller Leaf Coneybear, said the show is what most people expect from a musical. “It’s a musical that you don’t have to think too much about,” Sweeney said. “It’s an over-the-top spectacle. Josh Decker, who plays speller Chip Tolentino, said this show is also unique because it breaks the fourth wall, using volunteer spellers and audience interaction. “I also personally get to walk through and give candy to the audience,” Decker said. Griffyn Albers, who plays speller Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre, said the audience participation adds a level of surprise for the both the audience and actors. “It’s never what you’re going to expect, which is the fun part,” Albers said. Vandevender also said the show follows several storylines for the audience to connect with. “There is no one character that is more important than another,” Vandevender said. “The multiplicity of stories creates a multidimensional evening of storytelling for the audience.” Albers added that the show will remind the audience of their youth, even though the spellers do swear and talk about erections more than the average elementary schoolers. “It’s nostalgic because we’re a bunch of college [students] who have been given permission to act like kids again,” Albers said. The way this show fits in with the rest of UWO’s theater season, Vandevender said, is by examining how a community is formed. “It’s not one the characters right away know is going to form because they are all there for individual purposes, but by going through this competition they make ties; they make friendships or more adversely relationships,” Vandevender said. “They share this common experience that bonds them.” Vandevender said the substance of the show comes from the unique ensemble of quirky characters. “For the most part the spellers are people who consider themselves outsiders, who feel like they don’t belong, and they all come to a place in which their uniqueness is celebrated,” Vandevender said. “They all go through a process where they learn about themselves and what it means to have something that makes you special.” Sara Neumann, who plays speller Olive Ostrovsky, said the show contains a timeless message that can always use repeating. “Besides the fun aspect of the show, ‘Spelling Bee’ also has a really good message about winning and losing at the heart of it all, which I think is a good message for people to experience,” Neumann said. Neumann added that the show has pushed the cast harder physically than most other shows done at UWO. “It’s a very energetic show and you have to bring everything you’ve got to every scene and song otherwise it won’t be as successful,” Neumann said. Decker said he feels the show will be a success based on how the cast is still reacting to the show. “I still have to hold back laughter and I see it every night,” Decker said. Sweeney added that he is certain the UWO theater department has a great show ready for its students. “If I’m having fun at rehearsal I know people will have fun seeing it,” Sweeney said. “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” runs from April 28 to April 30 at 7:30 p.m. and May 1 at 2:00 p.m. at the Fredric March Theatre. Students tickets are $5 and the box office open ones hour before the show start.