Hilarious musical comedy, now until August 21st – Sierra Madre Playhouse
By: Judy Shields
Sierra Madre, CA (The Hollywood Times) 7/25/16 – “This show has been ridiculously fun to work on! The book is brilliant, the music just delightful, and the characters so endearing.” A note from the director, Robert Marra.
The Hollywood Times was in the audience at the Sierra Madre Playhouse this past Friday night, and one of our own photographs was a volunteer audience member. There’s also an interesting wrinkle. Following the model of the original Broadway production, several people will be pulled from the audience and asked to participate in the contest.
There were three total and they sat on the bleachers on stage and interacted with the cast until their name was called, first being “our photograph” Steve. The host of the spelling bee “Rona (played by Gina D’Acciaro) called out “Steve Topp – Steve was quoted as saying that he set his sister’s hair on first and that it was her fault!” Steve’s word was “Atheist.” Steve asked “can you use it in a sentence?” and a sentence was given. He then asked “can you give me the definition of the word? And a definition was given. He hesitated for a moment and slowly said Atheist, “A” “t” “h” (ah) “e” “i” “s” “t”, the announcer, who gave him the word Vice Principal Panch (played by Richard Van Slyke) said “you are correct!” what a smile Steve had on his face and back to his bleach seat he went. The other two audience participants seemly like naturals up there and had a great time as well.
I shall not tell you the rest of the story of the play. You must get out into your vehicle, red line to the gold line and then Uber and head out to the Sierra Madre Playhouse to see this awesomely funny musical play.
The cast of characters did an amazing job portraying these many characters of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, there was Chip (played by Joey Acuna Jr.) he reminded me of Russell, the boy scout from the Pixar movie “Up”, he will warm your heart and make you laugh. There was Olive (played by Cristina Geria) who was had a special way to pre spell her words before approaching the microphone. Logainne (played by Hannah Leventhal) she has great support from her parents and is determined to win this year. Leaf (played by Robert Michael Parkison), who makes his own clothes and truly is gifted when it comes to spelling a word once at the microphone. Marcy (played by Joy Reguliano) who is quite the quite one, but just wait! And then there is Barfée (played by Stanton Kane Morales) who always gets his name pronounced incorrectly. He is one of my favorite characters, but honestly they are all great. Then there was Mahoney (played by Jaq Galliano) sort of like the bouncer who was there to keep order and remove the one that spelled the word incorrectly.
With its combination of great songs, smarts and competitive spirit in a show with something for young and old alike, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a sure-fire crowd pleaser. Get your tickets early and avoid the rush.
The musical delivers on its title: the focus of its story is on a spelling contest. Young regional winners hope to qualify for the National Bee and a shot at further prizes and glory. To get into the local bee, you’ve got to have some smarts. So this unusual musical celebrates the intelligence of young people.
Who will be the winner? Who will go on to represent Putnam County in the National Bee for more renown and bigger prizes? As with other competitions, there will be the agony of defeat, but also the thrill of victory.
The book is by Rachel Sheinkin, whose other musicals include Little House on the Prairie, Striking 12, and Serenade. Music and lyrics are by William Finn, whose many, many musical credits include March of the Falsettos, Make Me A Song, In Trousers, Sizzle, Elegies, much more.
The Sierra Madre Playhouse production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is directed by Robert Marra, who helmed the Playhouse’s biggest hit ever, Always…Patsy Cline. Joe Lawrence is Spelling Bee’s musical director, with set and lighting design by Jeff Cason, costume design by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg, sound design by Cricket Myers, and properties by Joanne McGee Lamb.
John Sparks is the producer and Estelle Campbell and Christian Lebano are executive producers.
Mr. Lebano states, “Finding just the right property for our summer musical slot was not easy. I was looking for something light and fun, that the entire family could come to – The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is just right for our audiences and a perfect, good-time musical. Can you spell – H I L A R I O U S! You will after seeing this show.”
Sierra Madre Playhouse Artistic Director: Christian Lebano. Managing director: Estelle Campbell. Stage manager: Kristin Bolinski. Assistant stage manager: Emily Hopfauf.
Lobby displays and special events connected with the show will be curated by Diane Siegel.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The hit musical. Book by Rachel Sheinkin. Lyrics by William Finn. Directed by Robert Marra. Musical director: Joe Lawrence. Producer: John Sparks. Executive producers: Christian Lebano and Estelle Campbell. Presented by Sierra Madre Playhouse. July 8- August 21, 2016. Fri. & Sat. at 8:00, Sun. at 2:30.
Tickets will be on sale at (626) 355-4318 or at www.sierramadreplayhouse.org . Ticket prices will be $35, seniors $32, youth $25, and children 12 and under at $20.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR TICKETS:
Sierra Madre Playhouse is located at 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, CA 91024, just east of Pasadena. There is ample free parking behind the Playhouse, with several dining destinations just steps away.
About the Sierra Madre Playhouse (SMP)
The Sierra Madre Playhouse History | Evolution of a Theatre
The Sierra Madre Playhouse has evolved from a theatrical heritage that stretches back to the days when Sierra Madre was just a tiny village. Residents presented dramas and musicals as early as the 1880s in their homes, in the Town Hall, and in the Woman’s Club.
Then in 1923, the structure presently housing the Sierra Madre Playhouse was built. During the ensuing years, it has served as the focal point of the city’s family entertainment center, whether as a movie house, an arcade, or most recently, a theatre.
Its names have changed, as well as its functions. It was the “Wistaria Theater” when it fire opened, but by 1929 it became the “Sierra Madre Theatre.”
When Charles Andrese and Cheryl Pertile founded a new Arcadia theatrical operation in 1980, it was initially called the “Playback Players” to reflect their intention to specialize in some of the older, classic plays. When they moved to the present location later that year, their premiere Sierra Madre production was “Moby Dick-Rehearsed,” written by the famed late Orson Welles. Since this was hardly an “old classic,” the group renamed itself the “Sierra Madre Playhouse.” Soon, Stan Zalas came to the Playhouse as artistic director. He and Andrese, who became general manager, built a solid reputation for providing quality entertainment and culturally sound family theater fare. Stan passed away in 1977 and Charles in 2009.
As with most community theaters, the Sierra Madre Playhouse has often been in tight financial straits. To support the theater, a small group of dedicated local citizens spearheaded a campaign in 1995 to assist the Playhouse, with George Enyedi and Lee and Barbara Cline playing lead roles. The Playhouse reorganized and became a non-profit corporation. A Board of Directors was formed in 1996 comprising nine dedicated community volunteers and theater lovers.
Each season-which runs from January through the following December, The Playhouse presents six to eight events, featuring well-written comedies, musicals, and intriguing mysteries. More serious dramas are interspersed occasionally. All are family oriented, and they showcase a repertoire remarkably varied for a community theater.