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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

REVIEW: Buzzing about The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Photo by Isabel Bonebrake
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” opened its doors Oct. 7 in the Helfaer Theatre.

When I was told the plot of the play was about an elementary school spelling bee, I expected a boring, innocent and naïve narrative. To my surprise, these expectations were wrong.The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee performed by Marquette Theater did not fall short of expectations.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opened its doors Oct. 7 at the Evan P. and Marion Helfaer Theatre. The show will run through Oct. 16, which will be the final performance of a total of seven shows.

The show is a musical comedy and follows six nerdy tweens  who are competing in a spelling bee and the three adults running the bee are just as nerdy.

The musical was carried through the quirkiness of the characters. I think that the actors did a great job of portraying each of these characters, and each of them was able to highlight the unique characteristic that they had.

Going into the musical, I expected the jokes to be PG. To my surprise, some of the jokes contained very mature references, and even one song was focused on a dirty joke. Chip Tollentino, played by Sam Gutierrez, a senior in the College of Communication, was the character who was the center of the joke. After getting too excited about a girl, Chip misspells a word and begins to sell concessions to the audience. He breaks out in a song called “My Unfortunate Erection” and sings about how his male desires got in the way of his spelling.

With so many young children in the audience, I was a little shocked and uncomfortable with this song. I witnessed a lot of parents and children share awkward eye contact. I don’t know if this was the purpose of the song, but I wasn’t a fan.

Another one of my favorite characters from the bee was Marcy Park. Marcy, Played by Alex Merkel, a junior in the College of Business Administration, went from being an academic powerhouse to someone who was finally able to let loose. Merkel did a great job portraying this role, and truly embodied the transformation that the character went through.

An additional part of the musical that was unexpected was the audience’s participation in the story. We were made to feel as though we were watching a real spelling bee, instead of just a musical. Along with this, four members of the audience were called on stage to participate in the spelling bee and were expected to keep up with the cast members. I really did enjoy this aspect of the musical.

While I enjoyed the comedy of the show, I found myself asking the “question”, “What the heck is going on?” multiple times. There were a lot of very confusing plot twists that left me lost.

One of these twists was when Jesus appeared on stage. I was taking notes in my notebook when the next thing I know, I look up to see someone dressed up as Jesus singing with an angel by his side. I still don’t really understand the significance of this part, but I still found these random plot twists entertaining.

Even though I still am wondering what the point of the musical was, I still found the performance very compelling. Students in the show did a great job of capturing the essence of what it would be like to be a nerdy kid in a spelling bee.

This article was written by Phoebe Goebel. She can be reached at [email protected]


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Phoebe Goebel
Phoebe Goebel, Editor of Diversity and Inclusion
Phoebe is the Editor of Diversity and Inclusion at the Wire. She is a junior from Hinsdale, IL studying journalism. In her free time, Phoebe enjoys thrifting and can solve a Rubik's cube in less than one minute. This year Phoebe is looking forward to covering a different section at the Wire.

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