Marie Clark Musical Theatre. The Goodwood Institute. Nov 2017
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee tells the story of a charming bunch of eccentric youngsters all vying for the title of the Spelling Bee champion. It’s a feel good musical that reminds us that feeling good about ourselves is way more important that merely winning at all costs, and it is easy to see why the delightful score and lovable characters made the show a winner of nine major American theatre awards including two Tonys. Marie Clark Musical Theatre’s Adelaide production is a lovely rendering of this wonderful show.
Directed by Kristin Telfer in her ‘musical theatre’ directorial debut, with musical direction from Sarah Whiteley in her musical direction debut, one wouldn’t immediately pick that two of the four-strong production team were so green. They are complimented by co-choreographers Rachel Dow and Rebekah Sonelaitken and the result of their efforts is a perfectly pleasing production.
It is the casting which has been the greatest success for Marie Clark’s second 2017 season production. Standing proudly at the helm and with a voice that could melt chocolate, Sarah Wildy gives a stand-out vocal performance that is pivotal to the show’s success. The cast is wonderfully balanced and blend effortlessly. That said there are standouts amongst them whose characterisation or vocal ability shine.
Favourites included Emily-Jo Davidson’s wonderful physicality as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, Ashleigh McFadden’s mucosally challenged characterisation of William Barfee, and Joseph Giblin’s complete disdain for his part as Comfort Councillor, Mitch Mahoney, and hilarious pirouettes! Shay Stonelaitken delivers one of the best performances this reviewer has seen him execute in his multiple roles, including the home-schooled Leaf Coneybear.
Alisa James is beautifully insular as Olive Ostrovsky and does justice to one of music theatre’s most amazing numbers, the I Love You Song, in which Wildy transcends. Naomi Crosby is perfect as Marcy Park, Gus Robson’s unfortunate erection has a life of its own, and Jamie Wright’s Vice Principal Douglas Panch is wonderfully apathetic.
Overall the show is only just shy of an A+, with a few production elements falling short of framing a perfect performance. Lighting by Rodney Bates is a little hit and miss; mostly focussed at the floor it leaves dark patches in the corners and high on the rostrum. Sound – also by Bates – is well balanced but could do with a few notches on the volume. The pace in the opening numbers and in the dialogue between the songs really suffers and could do with being lifted, and a few odd blocking decisions niggle at otherwise lovely staging. These few misgivings aside, Marie Clark Musical Theatre’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is simply delightful.
When: 27 Oct to 4 Nov
Where: Goodwood Institute