Middle School Musical Keeps Audiences Spellbound
If the eighth graders starring in the Middle School play this January had any trepidation in tackling a six-time Tony award nominated show, they didn’t ‘act’ like it. The MS Big Room was filled with howls of laughter from students and faculty alike as Director Christa Crewdson’s charges performed a pitch-perfect rendition of the Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
The play tells the story of a tense spelling competition amongst a delightfully varied group of kids, proctored by adults who are only very slightly more mature than the spellers. Stand-out performances abounded whether through the hysterical interplay of Rebecca Jarrell and Harry Bator as the heads of the spelling bee, or the humorous, and at times dramatic, performances of the six final spellers (Chloe Tinagero, Alexander Medzorian, Amanda Lifford, Amanda Madigan, Chris Kellogg-Peeler, and Tynan Friend.)
“I knew they would rise to the challenge,” says Crewdson of her students. “I told them that this was what they had worked for during the past 3- 4 months and to enjoy the time on the stage…clearly they did.”
Every single actor/actress commanded the stage as their character despite material that demanded nuanced and complex acting. Some of the topics dealt with included divorce, same-sex marriage, the onset of puberty, and stereotypes, but Crewdson never worried about the students’ ability to handle the material.
“They deal with these issues everyday and were playing kids their own age so I thought they'd be fine and understand it all,” she says. “The kids didn't blink an eye at any of the material when we did the read-through—they see and hear much worse in daily life, TV, and movies.”
Other highlights from the play included guest spelling appearances by Assistant Middle School Director Tony Breen, and Middle School history teacher Harold Francis. Written to allow for frequent spots of improvisation, the script was the perfect vehicle for guest appearances and student wit to shine.
“I relied heavily on my classical education, and was well aware of the base words (xeros = dry, opthalmos = eye), but had simply forgotten the rule about occasionally using a connecting vowel in combined roots, ophthalmos and logos (-logy),” noted Breen about narrowly missing the correct spelling of a word designed to oust him.
“I thought it was an excellent production and one which gave an accurate representation of all that our eighth Grade performers are typically capable of,” Breen continued. “The interest of the audience was maintained throughout, and the standing ovation at the end was thoroughly deserved.”
In addition to the acting, a vibrant musical score (performed by Katherine Gellar, Rob Humphreville, Chris Dwyer, and Frank Kumiega) allowed for student voices to shine and kept the audience tapping its feet.
For a full program of cast and crew, click here.
For a photo gallery of the production, click here.