After successfully performing and streaming The Laramie Project this fall, CHS Theatre is at it again! This year’s spring musical is The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a hilarious hit musical about six quirky kids competing to win the title of spelling champion. The show will be performed live outside of the auditorium at the end of May. Performance dates are: May 20, 21, 22 at 7:30 and May 21 & 22 at 2:00. A rain date performance will be scheduled for Sunday, May 22 at 7:30. The show will be performed for a limited audience, and tickets will be open to the school and community after they are sold to family members.
The show looks very different from a typical CHS musical. The outdoor setting presents various challenges to the process, and so do the social distancing requirements. Junior Ava Chrusciel (Olive Ostrovsky) said, “This experience is completely different than any show I’ve ever done before. We all have to wear masks and be conscious of social distancing 24/7, which is honestly such an adjustment while performing. In terms of singing, we’ve all had to learn how to breathe properly with masks, which is incredibly difficult!” Mr. Bryson, the music director, also noted the challenges of singing during the pandemic: “Being so far apart often prevents the singers from hearing those around them, so in turn they hold back on their projection. Additionally, the acoustics are completely different outside. For a singer or instrumentalist, being able to hear those around you is very important. Outside, the sound you produce just dissipates into the atmosphere.” Singing under these conditions is not the only obstacle the production team had to overcome – this year’s restrictions also made dancing difficult. Mrs. Irene, the show’s choreographer, stated that “The choreography has definitely changed. We are not able to touch or get as close as we normally would, so this makes kicklines and partner moves more challenging. Also, even simple moves like a slide or turn are harder on the pavement. I am implementing a lot of easier moves like claps and small jumps.”
Despite the challenges and differences from a typical year, the performers and directors are extremely grateful for the chance to put together a show. Ava explained: “When we were all in quarantine, I really missed seeing my friends at rehearsal every day. I’m so grateful to have some level of social interaction again, and especially with such an amazing group of people!” When asked about her favorite part of being in the show this year, Senior Katie Caviness (Rona Lisa Peretti) responded: “Honestly, I’d have to say that my favorite part is getting to actually have a show. I was so worried that we wouldn’t be able to, and I’m so grateful that I’m able to go to rehearsal everyday knowing that we’ll have a show in May.” Senior Grace Petersen (Marcy Park) added that “After being unable to perform for audiences for the past year, I’m so grateful that we’re able to put on a show and come together as Chatham Theatre again.”
The cast and production team all agree that Spelling Bee is the perfect show to produce during the pandemic. Mr. Bryson predicted that “Spelling Bee is going to be an amazing show, and it’s the perfect show for this time.” He added, “It’s an incredibly funny show, and who doesn’t needs to laugh right now?” Katie similarly said that “The show is a great reason to laugh and have a good time, especially when things are so stressful in the rest of the world.” Mrs. Russo stated that the production team “has wanted to do Spelling Bee for many years. We adore the witty script and upbeat score.”
One unique aspect of the show is the fun and quirky characters. Senior Tanner Clark commented on playing Leaf Coneybear: “It really has been a blast to play Leaf. I’m so used to getting cast in roles that are so mature and serious, but with him, I can be as energetic, playful, and silly as I want to be. It truly feels like I can be a kid again!” Katie also enjoys playing her character, Rona: “Playing Rona is a lot of fun! She loves to have control over every situation, so she’s always trying to keep the spellers in their seats and keep the Bee moving smoothly. She also loves to charm everyone she meets and is a bit flirtatious. It’s so much fun to take all of her qualities and have her interact with the other characters.” Ava said that her favorite part of playing Olive is “portraying her journey from a shyer, more anxious character to a self-assured young woman.” She added, “I think that many girls can relate to Olive’s story, which is why I’m excited to see the connection the audience has to her.” Mrs. Irene noted that each of the character’s eccentric qualities adds another layer to the dance styles in the show. She explained, “The style of dance is really neat this year, because many of the characters in Spelling Bee are made out to be quirky and awkward. While I would usually be emphasizing technique such as pointed feet and straight knees, it works to have each performer give the moves their own style.”
The show is especially unique because of the audience participation aspect. At each performance, audience members will be selected to “compete” in the Spelling Bee. It will be a fun opportunity to watch some familiar faces interact with the performers on stage. Mrs. Russo said that “You are guaranteed to laugh out loud and you may see some of your favorite teachers as spellers!”