Performed at the Arts Educational School, London.
One of the pleasures to be had from supporting drama student productions is the opportunity to see musicals that one only knows from recordings, but have rarely been performed in this country. They also offer the chance to see revivals of old favourites or to catch up on musicals that one missed first time around.
The 25th Annual Spelling Bee, which fell into the latter category for me, focuses on the final of the spelling competition to which regional winning students have progressed. Each of them seems to be a social misfit who find compensation and morale boosts from these contests. There are flashbacks to their private lives. The musical comedy was conceived by Rebecca Feldman with music and lyrics by William Finn, a book by Rachel Sheinkin and additional material by Jay Reiss.
Directed by Thom Southerland, with choreography from Mark Smith, this production from Arts Ed is slick and fast moving and has an excellent cast. The show suits the young students, a welcome difference from using older adults to play the young competitors, a gimmick used in previous productions. Also dropped is the dragging out of members of the audience to participate in the competition.
To utilise the maximum numbers the show has alternate casts and the one I saw was of a high standard with some exceptional individual performances and highly disciplined company work.
Aimee Hodnett was both sexy and funny as Rona, a past winner who introduces each contestant with hilarious CV details. As Olive, shy and reserved due to her uninterested parents, Grace Eccle delivered a touching performance. Grant McIntyre, who proved his talent for comedy in the recent production of Babes in Arms, had a ball as William Barfee, a self-opinionated neurotic. Before spelling his words he traced them on the ground with his right foot – this had him leading the company in ‘Magic Foot’, an energetic one-footed tap number.
Rona Lisa Peretti – AIMEE HODNETT
Vice Principal Panch – ROSS RUSSELL
Mitch Mahoney – BEN OLIVER
Olive Ostrovsky – GRACE ECCLE
William Barfee – GRANT MCINTYRE
Logainne Schwartand-Grubenierre – GABRIELLA STYLIANOU
Maecy Park – RASHEEDA ALI
Leaf Coneybear – ROGER DIPPER
Charlito “Chip” Tolentino – ASHLEY GILMOUR
Carl – GREG MILLER BURNS
Dan – EMANUEL ALBA
Olive’s Mum – ISABELLA VALETTE
Olive’s Dad – JOSHUA LIBURD
Jesus Christ – RYAN RIED
County Spellers – ROSIE FLETCHER, FLO FIELDS, GENESIS LYNEA, MAX PARKER, ADAM MORGAN