Director’s Note: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

“…a night of good fun, from nut allergies, spontaneous dance breaks, and rather unfortunate erections.”


From Broadway, to St. Mary’s College, Durham, I am absolutely honoured to present William Finn’s Spelling Bee.

Upon discussing this show with many, all are surprised (nicely, I do hope), when they realise it is not an actual spelling bee but rather a musical full of razzmatazz. It’s a bright, vivacious piece that brings back all the memories of the troubles that consumed and plagued your childhood, alongside with a reminder of the mundanity and silliness of it.

Adulthood creeps in through the children’s insecurities, with the tragic trope of Olive’s family life juxtaposed by her own personal achievements. There isn’t a single rehearsal that goes by, where I don’t get another insight to these unique characters, whether it’s simply through re-reading or my delightful cast giving me their own interpretation of it.

The hilarity of the words chosen in the bee, the up-beat music, in addition to the other fantastic surprises, will ensue a marvellous couple of performances. Key songs such as ‘Magic Foot’, ‘I Speak Six Languages’, and ‘Pandemonium’, gives the whole show an up-beat pace and adds to the manic chaos, not only of the show, but of the spellers themselves.

When first approaching the show, it was important for me to visually represent these children as all different and unique to each other. It is their eccentricities that makes them special, this is inclusive of the adults such as Rona in this musical. Mitch is used as a perfect reminder of the realities of life, and the daunting challenges these kids will face when growing up. The juxtaposition of his nature creates a rich emotional tone that I hope will resound amongst the audience upon seeing it.

Although the short rehearsal process has seen a few challenges, (including the short turnaround!), I really truly hope the audience leave with the same radiant enjoyment that myself, the cast, and the musical directors, have had throughout the whole process.

Working with such a complex piece such as Spelling Bee has led to some memorable moments, my personal favourite being the rather… peculiar words Vice Principle Panch has lined up for this year’s 25th Annual Spelling Bee. If wit is key for your delivery, then our VP Panch is your kind of mismatched, slightly concerning, guy.

Like any theatrical piece, the outcome reflects the journey it has had in order for it be the success that it will (hopefully) be. I ensure you a night of good fun, from nut allergies, spontaneous dance breaks, and rather unfortunate erections. So, if you’re somewhat curious as to how all three of those themes could link and make for some form of entertainment, come down to St Mary’s college and see our rendition of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is on at 8.30pm, Thursday 14th- Friday 15th of June at St Mary’s College.

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