Funny and Sweet: “Spelling Bee” Review


Photo Courtesy Alec Chvany

Ashwin Krishnaswamy, Staff Writer

The MIHS Drama Department’s performance of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” was entertaining, heartwarming and full of childlike energy. 

One of the highlights of the show was seeing three audience volunteers go up onstage to participate in the spelling bee as contestants. It added a layer of audience participation, and it was fun to see them try to fit in with the actors during the choreography of the deliberately chaotic song “Pandemonium.” It was also fun to see cast members improvise witty lines teasing the volunteers.

In terms of staging, “Magic Foot,” a hilarious song about how character Will Barfee (acted by Devon Benaroya with Cast Bees on the night I saw the show) uses his foot to spell words, was my favorite song in the musical. Midway through the song, the cast members pulled out shoes seemingly from thin air and started waving them and then rotating around Barfee. The song was funny and entertaining to watch.

The only thing I was disappointed by in the show was that while each character had a unique backstory, each character’s development felt separate from all the other characters. While the audience learned each character’s family situation and motivations through the songs, the characters didn’t seem to learn about each other throughout the play. However, this criticism is of the play’s script, not the acting.

Perhaps I had mistaken expectations going into the musical. Even though “Spelling Bee” doesn’t have a single story arc, all of the characters develop in their own idiosyncratic way during the play. When viewed as a collection of quirky characters and funny yet heartfelt songs, “Spelling Bee” fully delivers.

One song I was particularly impressed by was “Six Languages,” sung by Kyra McPherson (Cast Bees) as Marcy Park. Midway through, she played a short solo on the keyboard while continuing to sing! This was very impressive.

While I’m on the topic of music, shout out to the incredible musicians who played background music live throughout the show. I have no idea how they were able to coordinate with each other to start each new background track, but they did an excellent job and the music blended seamlessly with the performance.

Emotionally and musically, my favorite song in the musical was “The I Love You Song,” about how Olive Ostrovsky wishes her parents loved her. Molly Atkinson’s sensitive and melodious singing made the character’s loneliness emotionally powerful.

Photo Courtesy Alec Chvany

A notable moment from the play was a rapid sequence of spellers going up onstage to spell their word. As a drumbeat in the background gradually increased, the contestants moved faster and faster, portraying the repetition and tediousness of the bee as all the contestants continued to spell their words correctly.

The set was immersive, as the large banners, posters and the basketball hoop in the background made me feel as if I was actually watching the Spelling Bee in Webster Middle School’s gym. 

Overall, “Spelling Bee” was a wonderful show filled with emotional songs, audience participation and funny dialogue. The show will run again on May 5 and 6 at 7 pm and Saturday, May 7 at 2 pm.