Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

The 25th Annual County Spelling Bee: Talented misfits have a huge hit on their hands ... that's H. I. T!

We all knew children who were good at sport, at art, or maths or writing.

But there are some whose special talent is spelling, and in America these children get a chance to shine in competitive spelling bees.

We meet six of them in Bruiser's production of Rebecca Feldman's musical The 25th Annual County Spelling Bee.

These misfits get their chance to shine in front of an audience as they struggle with words whose definitions occasionally defy belief.

And they learn, through the course of the competition, that winning isn't everything, and losing doesn't make you a loser.

We're in the gymnasium at Putnam Valley School, and are introduced to the competitors by former winner Rona Lisa Peretti (Colette Lennon).

Bruiser has been making inroads into the world of musicals with its recent productions. Here, the company, under director Lisa May, creates a joyous evening of laughter and lessons, as they perform catchy numbers alongside a punchy script. As ever with Bruiser, the choreography is watertight, and the ensemble just about flawless.

The adjudicator, Douglas Panch, played with great wit by Morgan Crowley, doesn't miss a single opportunity to milk laughs from his droll definitions.

Vying for the trophy are Marcy Park (Kat Reagan), who has never come lower than first in anything; Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (Jolene O'Hara), the girl with two dads, and the lovely Olive Ostrovsky: shy, unassuming, and longing for mother.

Portrayed by Fiona Carty, she delivers the show's knock-out number in exceptional style.

They're pitting against Chip Tolentino (Adam Dougal), current holder of the spelling bee title; sweet, shy Leaf Coneybear (a touching performance from Terence Keeley) and Gerard McCabe's show-stealer William Barfee, the boy with the magic foot. All of them looking for affirmation of worth.

Surprise of the evening comes when the adjudicator calls up some volunteers from the audience, who take part in the competition's early rounds. Among them was one Basil McCrea, who entered into the spirit of things, and demonstrated that he knows how to spell 'independence'.

Terrific performances, an on-stage orchestra and a show that sends you home with a smile on your face. Spell hit. H.I.T.

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Taurus:

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