Summerset spells way to opening act

Published 9:45 am Monday, July 4, 2011

Lia Culbert, playing Logainne, spells her first word during rehearsel for the Summerset production of the 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee Friday night at Frank W. Bridges Theatre. - Eric Johnson/

When the lights dim, the participants are scattered. As the host of the spelling bee calls out their names, they each come up one by one, take their number and sit down.

That’s how it normally works in a spelling bee. That’s not how it works in Putnam County.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is set to open July 6.

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The latest Summerset Theatre production at the Frank W. Bridges Theatre at Riverland Community College runs through July 10.

“It’s got a lot of unique characteristics,” said Jerry Girton, Summerset director.

Unique certainly describes this fairly new musical. First shown in 2004, the musical has taken the Broadway stage by storm, winning a Tony Award for Best Book in the process.

The actors in Riverland’s iteration take the stage in a unique way, too. They’ve designed their own costumes with hilarious results.

“It’s just fun playing a 12-year-old,” said Kristine Iverson, who plays Olive Astrovsky.

What’s more, there’s room for a little audience participation. While six actors and actress will be acting out the bee, there’s also four audience volunteer roles perfect for anyone interested in a little immersive theatre.

The big draw to the show is seeing the way these, well, unique personalities (who may or may not be a little weird) react to the tensions and expectations of spelling at the bee, hungering for a chance to go to the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. Anyone who remembers dealing with pressure in their childhood knows competing can be a big deal.

“If anyone’s gone through puberty, they should see this show,” said David Albino, Summerset actor.

The musical is family friendly and promises lots of laughs, according to Girton. The show opens July 6 at 7:30 p.m. and runs through July 10. Tickets are $15.