The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a hard sell. It’s a show with adults playing bizarre caricatured kids at a regional Spelling Bee in middle America, complete with audience interaction. Luckily, behind the premise lies an absolutely stellar score by William Finn, and an enchanting and comic story from Rachel Sheinkin.
But hard sell or not, this is a first-rate production. The casts performances as individuals, and as an ensemble, are remarkable, and alongside the musicality of this show, this is a show that delivers some fantastic comedy. The whole audience were laughing throughout the whole show, and whilst there’s camp humour, silliness, and also sheer madness at some points, this is a show with a dark side. Behind every caricatured character is a hint of tragedy that has made them who they are: absent parents, an abusive family, the pressure to succeed, loneliness, and the painful awkwardness of being in your early teens, there are pressures and experiences in this show, that although perhaps exaggerated, will resonate with every person in the room.