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The Suburbanite
  • Big laughs on stage in Alliance

  • Need a good laugh? Dan Kane suggests you check out “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” playing in Alliance.

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  • One of the funniest shows I’ve seen in a while is the Carnation City Players’ current production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
    A celebration of adolescent nerds, geeks and misfits united for a spelling competition, it has the feel of an extended “Saturday Night Live” skit.
    One of the boys has an embarrassing arousal problem. A lisping girl gets words such as “cystitis” to spell. An ex-con doing community service is on hand to distribute juice boxes to the departing losers.
    The humor is sharp, witty, silly, sometimes ad-libbed and, I’d say, PG-13.
    While “Spelling Bee” is a stage musical, its appeal goes beyond typical Broadway song-and-dance fare. The show is a comedy first and foremost, and the songs — such as the aptly titled “Pandemonium” — exist to amuse.
    Director Lee Lavery has assembled an inspired, likable and well-chosen cast. The quirky adolescents are mostly played by college students.
    Tyler Hanes is a definite scene-stealer as Leaf Coneybear, a hyperactive free spirit who zooms around the stage with gleeful exuberance. Brenton Cochran commands the stage as grumpy-arrogant William Barfee, who constantly wipes his nose and telepathically spells words using his feet. Michael Ritzert is Chip, the tightly wound, visibly pubescent Boy Scout and returning bee champion.
    Lorraine, played by Kaitlin Glover, is a politically aware girl whose two gay dads (played by Douglas Downie and Austin Gantz) are prominent in the cheering section. Sarah Young is the overachieving Marcy Park, who speaks six languages and is headed for a meltdown. Olive, played with subtle poignancy by Julia Mihalich, is shy and clearly neglected by her parents.
    Greg Emmanuelson is comic perfection as the vice principal, who announces the obscure spelling words — “apoop” and “acouchi” to name two — and uses them in the most offbeat of sentences. Virtually everything he says is laugh-inducing.
    Adding solidly to the onstage fun are Daryl Robinson, as the aforementioned ex-con, who proves sensitive despite his  gang-like attire, and Melissa Day, a sure-voiced and grounding presence. The band is tight, the costumes designed by Cherie Stebner distinctly define the nerds, and the gymnasium setting designed by Keith Brown is perfect.
    Adding solidly to the onstage fun are Daryl Robinson, as the aforementioned ex-con, who proves sensitive despite his  gang-like attire, and Melissa Day, a sure-voiced and grounding presence. The band is tight, the costumes designed by Cherie Stebner distinctly define the nerds, and the gymnasium setting designed by Keith Brown is perfect.
    Remaining performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at 450 E. Market St. To order tickets, $12 for adults and $10 for students, call 330-821-8712.