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Theatre Review: “Putnam County Spelling Bee” At Suzanne Roberts

(Photo provided)

(Photo provided)

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Theatre Company has launched its new season with a production of the popular one-act musical comedy, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Born Off-Broadway six years ago and moving to success with Tony awards and numerous tours, it has now settled into the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, Broad and Lombard Streets, through December 12th.

Set in the gymnasium of a fictional high school in a very real Hudson River community, we witness the unfolding of a fictional spelling bee involving six rather unique adolescents in a spell-down managed by a trio of wacky supervising adults.

While music and lyrics offer little to write home about, the youngsters are so unique and the mechanics of the spell-down so bizarre as to create the craziest contest imaginable.

It’s a brief show, with most of the nonsense and the mechanics of the silliness more than enough to keep the audience in stitches.

One unique aspect of the show is that, on occasion, members of the audience are invited to the stage to enter the foolishness.

There are  a number of people responsible for the performance.  Marc Bruni directs.  It’s not easy to judge the sendup, but it’s easy to find the pretend seriousness of this “Spelling Bee” dissolving into gales of laughter.

Review by Bob Nelson, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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