USD Theatre brings Spelling Bee to the stage

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The University of South Dakota Department of Theatre will present the popular musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” April 15-19, at the Wayne S. Knutson Theatre.

The play is a priceless tale of overachievers’ angst and chronicles the experience of six adolescent social outsiders vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime. These young people are overseen by grown-ups who barely managed to escape childhood themselves as the musical explores the concepts of winning and losing.

A hilarious spelling bee, the musical is interspersed with jokes, songs and flashbacks revealing character and plot. The contest is moderated by busybody Rona Lisa Peretti, played by Gabrielle Cross of Brewster, Minn., judged by high strung Vice Principal Douglas Panch, played by Nicholas Wineman of Cut Bank, Mont., while Mitch Mahoney, played by Chris Johnson of Crown Point, Ind., “comforts” the losers in order to fulfill his court-mandated public service. Spellers include the painfully shy Olive Ostrovsky (Nichole Jorgenson of Tea, S.D.), confidence lacking Leaf Coneybear (Will Cornay of Yankton, S.D. and Tim Huggenberger of Sioux City, Iowa), overconfident William Barfee (Allen Jones of Miller, S.D.), adolescently aroused Chip Tolentino (David Hernandez III of Huron, S.D.), overachieving Marcy Park (Brianna Wetrosky of Brandon, S.D.), and stressed-out Logainne Schwarztzandgrubenniere (Natalie Polisson of Cedar Lake, Ind.).

Rounding out the cast are Olive’s Mom (Rebecca Barczak of Clarkesville, Ind.), Olive’s Dad (Devin Basart of Sioux Falls, S.D.) and Jesus (Patrick Beasley of Lincoln, Neb.). The cast is joined onstage by volunteers from the audience who are recruited to compete as guest spellers. Each performance offers a new set of spellers and guarantees a new set of hilarious and unexpected experiences. The production also features a team of student designers, including set designer Nicholas Amundson of Vermillion, costume designer Tiffany Lent of Henderson, Nev., and lighting designer James Hovland of Yankton, S.D. Matt Nesmith of Vermillion, assistant professor of theatre and coordinator of the Musical Theatre specialization, directs both the music and stage action, while assistant professor Patricia Downey is choreographer.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” contains mature themes and parental guidance is recommended.  Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on April 15-16 and April 18-19 and at 2 p.m. on April 17. Tickets are $14 for adults, $9 for K-12 and non-USD students and $4 for USD students with ID. Advanced reservations can be made online at www.usd.edu/theatre or by calling the USD Theatre Box Office at (605) 677-5400. Walk up sales begin Friday, April 8 with hours from noon to 5 p.m. weekdays.

A cast photo is available for download at www.usd.edu/press/news/images/releases/Putnam_SpellingBee.jpg.