The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was reviewed at MPAA Broussais, Paris, and is playing at Comédie Nation, Paris until 29 June.
Rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
The Tony Award-winning one-act musical written by Rebessa Feldman with music and lyrics by William Finn, a book by Rachel Sheinkin and additional material by Jay Reiss, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee tells the story of a spelling bee in Putnam county where six teenagers compete for a trophy.
Reminiscent of Glee in that the characters are mostly outcasts, the quirkiest feature of the musical (other than the audience participation) is that the youngsters are played by adults. Inviting audience members to take part in the contest leads to some improvements in the book too.
This was the first time that Les Barrés de Broadway, a Parisian company of musical theatre fanatics created in 2010, had staged a French adaptation of a legitimate American musical, following their successful Les Barrés de Broadway ont des Blues, which started back in 2014.
The production was directed by Maïka Cordier and her alter ego Jérôme Bortaud, recently seen as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray at Paris’ Théâtre Adyar, with Thomas Bulle as musical director.
This first endeavour was a success, selling out for all three of its performances at MPAA Broussais, before transferring to Comédie Nation, the new temple of musical theatre fringe in Paris, where it continues to play until 29 June.
Standouts from the impeccable cast of Les Barrés de Broadway were regular Anne-Claire Couderc, Xavier Ecary (recently seen in Edges), Timothée Path as Chip, and Bastien Gabriel, doubling as choreographer with Emmanuelle N’Zuzi, who staged the showstopping number ‘Magic Feet’.
William Finn, a major force in contemporary musical theatre, whose other Tony Award-winning Falsettos is soon to be revived on Broadway, gave his blessing to this enthusiastic French company to adapt his work. It surprisingly translates very well into French, credits to Les Barrés de Broadway.