Raritan Valley Community College ‘s Welpe Theatre was alive with sounds of laughter Tuesday, March 31 as a five-night run of the Tony award-winning Broadway play, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, kicked off its first night.
The Welpe Theatre—aka Putnam County High School’s Gym—was alive with the nervous energy of our young spelling contestants—aka theatre students—at RVCC.
The student Theatre production, presented by RVCC’s Visual & Performing Arts Department, focuses on six young people in the throes of puberty. They are overseen by grown-ups who barely managed to escape childhood themselves.
The young students learn that winning isn’t everything and that losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser. With its enormously appealing cast of loveable misfits, nerds, neurotics (and no jocks), "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" hilariously captures the angst, exhilaration and heartache that makes growing up so painful and so wonderful.
As you enter the lobby of the theatre, sign-up sheets are available for audience members to agree to be part of the spelling bee, if chosen. I was hesitant of how this would be pulled off, but it was interesting and entertaining to see how seamlessly they were put in to the cast. And the reward for being part of the play…a juice box! Well, you need to see the play to see how a juice box fits into the play.
I have to say the acting was well done and the singing was a valiant effort. Kudos to Director Gorscak. He’s done a great job with the student actors. The fourth-wall was broken many times as the actors engaged with audience members. This was an a entertaining touch as it made you feel you were not just watching a play, but became part of the performance as one of the characters.
The play was funny, emotional and had you rooting for the kids to make it to the next round. As I was watching the adult actors playing young kids, I felt stressful emotions that I had as a kid flooding back into my memory. Morgan Tarrant (Logainne Schwarz and Grubeniere) and Bryna Parker (Olive Ostrovsky) who played two of the adolescent girls were quite believable as 7 and 10-year-olds. The mannerisms in their face and body language had me feel their awkwardness. I truly thought I was looking at a fourth grader whenever Hayley Pellis, who played Marcy Park, came up to the mic.
I recommend you try to see a performance this week. The cast did a really good job presenting what was a very enjoyable evening at the theatre. As I was packing up my camera gear, getting ready to leave the theatre, I heard many compliments from the audience, such as, “This was fun. You know I found myself laughing quite a bit.” “The acting was really good. I enjoyed it a lot.” “That was really entertaining. They all did a good acting job.” “I’m glad I came. It was lots of fun.”
So if you want to see a performance, hurry over to the theatre as performances run 8 PM every night until Saturday, April 4.
General admission tickets cost $12 each, $8 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the RVCC Theatre Box Office (908-725-3420), Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. For additional information, contact the Visual and Performing Arts Department, 908-218-8876.
The Tony Award-winning musical comedy features music and lyrics by William Finn. It was conceived by Rebecca Feldman. The RVCC production is directed by Adjunct Assistant Professor John Gorscak. Other production staff includes RVCC alum Hillary Stein (Assistant Director/Stage Manager), David Seamon (Musical Director), and RVCC alum Mariella Klinger (Choreographer).
The 14-plus characters, youngsters and adults, are played by a cast of 12 with some playing multiple roles. The following cast includes RVCC students as well as members of the community: Carly A. Bauer, Somerset; Koppany Pusztai, High Bridge; Morgan Tarrant, Flemington; Nathaniel Marlor Pickens, Bloomsburg; Hayley Pellis, High Bridge; Bryna Parker, Califon; Allison Lessig, Milford; Zachary Pflugh, Washington; Tom Golterman, Stockton; Maxwell Lemon, Belle Mead; Jack Leichter, Bedminster; Anissa Centeno, Middlesex; Spencer Bautista, Warren.
Additional technical crew members include Tim Higgins, Jimmy Duprey, Hannah Steinberg, Aljernon Leverett, Vaughn Anderson, and Cassy Kalley.
Featured image caption: Student #1, Koppany Pusztai, #10 Morgan Tarrant, #14 Spencer Bautista, #6 Hayley Pellis.Photo by Ben Auletta.