The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
It’s a sweet, silly and slightly naughty show. Though as a musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a bit wanting.
The setup of this Broadway Series show is simple. It’s a showcase for all the S-T-U-R-M und D-R-A-N-G of a junior-high spelling bee, complete with quirky kid contestants, eccentric spelling techniques, and, of course, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat (or the feet, with one of the kids).
What saves Spelling Bee from cloying is its well-intentioned heart, sly double entendres and clever inclusion of audience members as onstage contestants. The six students (and three audience participants) do spell. But most of the show’s humor comes from the contestants’ I-D-I-O-S-Y-N-C-R-A-S-I-E-S, the spelling word definitions and sentence usages.
These young spellers are P-R-E-C-O-C-I-O-U-S, each nerdy and needy in his or her own special way. You have the robotic overachiever, the peculiar underachiever, the sexually awkward Boy Scout, the forgotten daughter, the allergy king and the politically militant daughter of a gay couple.
Though this is a musical about kids, it’s not necessarily for kids, due to a number about a young man’s awakening sexual excitement. But most of the adult humor is veiled behind double meanings.
Now, as a musical, Spelling Bee doesn’t quite measure up, mainly because the songs kinda S-U-C-K. But the point is entertainment, and in this regard, Spelling Bee delivers. Word.