Winter Musical Set to Be UnBEE-lievably Good
Why you need to see this year’s musical
The KUA community can look forward to the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, put on by the Arts Department in February.
Every winter there is a musical at KUA; this production is usually built of a larger cast and occasionally tours in another country. This year, part of the cast and a few faculty members will be going to New Zealand during spring break to show off their take on the iconic production.
The musical’s cast of about 25 students portrays a motley crew of young people who have worked for years to be the top speller in the county and are now competing for the ultimate title. Spelling Bee is a more lighthearted play this year, and as director Mr. Weidman put it, “It’s not silly but it has a very lightness of being.” The musical is packed full of flashbacks and fantasies of the young characters, showing their respective backgrounds and future dreams.
One decision that Mr. Weidman made this year was to have all of the principal cast members write a 500 word essay about the characters’ backstories. This will allow each actor to better understand how to portray the motivations and reactions of their assigned character. The ultimate goal of this exercise is balance and range. Weidman clarified “you can’t just play this crazy person who is one sided,” and that this essay will help prevent cartoonish, unrealistic characters from developing.
While the director and supervising faculty are hard at work preparing the cast and stage for the rehearsal process, the student actors are looking forward to their assigned workloads. One aspect of a musical that can make or break the production are rehearsals. According to Roberto Silva-Neto, “There is a fine line between over exaggeration and underacting, and the hard part of acting is finding that line.” This comment seems to echo Weidman’s focus on balance and believability. The directors are helping everybody find that line and do well this year; while there is substantial work for the staff to manage during rehearsals, so far they have all handled it well and are even ahead of schedule for the production.
Realistic acting is just one focus for the cast. The style and pace of the music will prove challenging to several actors. Some students, like Kate Mackey, said that remembering all of the cues for the songs will be the most difficult part of the production, while others, like Emma McGonigle and Andrew Jones, said this musical has many songs that begin and change very fast, which can be difficult to keep track of. This challenging tempo may be difficult for the actors but if they rehearse regularly and focus on timing during rehearsals, this will surely make for an impressive performance come opening night.
This year there is a large and complicated set for the performances on campus and a smaller set that will be used in New Zealand. The New Zealand set must be smaller because the set team does not know the exact size or features of the stages they will be working on. Mr. Weidman assures audience members that they will fall in love with both the music, the set, and the production as a whole.
This year’s casting was not affected by the trip to New Zealand very much, although there are more people in theatre activity this year. Mr. Weidman made the decision to double up on casting, having one cast for the home performances and one cast for the trip to New Zealand. According to Weidman, when some people heard that they weren’t going to New Zealand, they decided to quit winter theatre altogether, instead swapping activities.
While a trip to New Zealand is an enticing opportunity for most students, it was not always the main motivation for auditioning. McGonigle said, “the New Zealand trip wasn’t even a deciding factor, I just wanted to be a part of it.” Alternatively, the journey half-way round the world to perform proved to be “a huge plus” for Mackey. Whether they are going to New Zealand or not, everybody involved in the production seems to be happy to be a part of the musical this year.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is expected to be a huge hit and a lot of fun to watch. Actors have described it as “surprising” and “hilarious,” and “one you definitely need to see.” Whether you are a theatre fan or not, everyone is encouraged to come and see the musical. Performances will run February 22nd, 23rd, and 24th in Flickinger Auditorium, and tickets will be available during the week leading up to the musical during lunch. As with all campus shows, those interested in attending should secure their tickets as early as possible, since seats quickly fill up.