Time to Remember
Musical theatre is hard! Seriously! For a truly successful show there has to be a perfect blend of so many elements that are absolutely necessary to the finished product. A combination of strong actors, singers, choreography, musical direction, plus the extensive production aspects from sets, sound, and lights - all of these and most all a strong leader in the director whose vision brings it all together in perfect harmony. (Sorry- couldn't resist the pun.) They take long grueling hours of rehearsal and are not for the faint of heart but when they come together they are pure magic, making it all worth it.
Gulf Coast State College's production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee " made that magic. The exuberant performers were perfectly cast, the singing was extraordinary, and the acting was fantastic. It is the rare show on amateur stages that has triple threats in acting, singing and dancing.This show was the exception.
Of course, one of the joys of this show is that it is a group of young adults playing small children. This can be a tricky thing to pull off without going over the top and becoming caricatures. Director Hank Rion guides his youthful cast with a strong vision,navigating the balance between zaniness to poignancy with pitch perfect results. I have seen this show on three different occasions and was delighted to see what Mr. Rion brought to the plate-every beat thought out, every bit of shtick eliciting laughs. The staging and the choreography (also done by Mr. Rion) flowed beautifully and made my heart sing.
Speaking of singing, Musical director Carissa Hosea was just as successful at getting the best from the youthful cast. The group numbers were strong as well as the solos, (I particularly loved Danyelle Kerchoff's solos as well as "The I Love You Song" with Savanna Wambo and Christian Beccerra- the harmonies were exquisite!)
I say this with great joy-there was not one weak link in the cast! Everyone brought precise characterizations and masterful comic timing. Ben Whitmer brings lovely tics to his Boy Scout Chip Tolentino and "Chip's Lament" surprises with an innocent take to a very relatable predicament for every teenage boy. His song isn't played for bawdiness or shock value but as just a fact of pubescent life.Tyler Kent's hilariously egotistical adenoidal William Barfee ("That's Bar- FAY!!!") had the audience roaring with his nimble "Magic Foot" dance. Amy Tinch's politically aware lisping brainiac has some lovely moments with her two Dads and plays the gawky bespectacled contestant Logaine Schwartzandgrubennierre beautifully. Charis Walker seems born to play the overachiever Marcy Park. The multi talented actress displayed a full range of talents in her number "I speak 6 languages" that left me floored. She can do anything.. Savannah Wambo had a perfect amount of innocence and poignancy to her Olive Ostrovskey and as I mentioned before, sang beautifully. And lastly (for the participants at least) Haythem Spence brought great energy, charm, and hilarity as the spacey Leaf Coneybear. It was a fearless performance (and I'm not talking about the graceful way he glided across the stage in his roller sneakers) that impressed me greatly as (according to the program) it was his first performance ar GCSC.
Now to the adults-Deadpan Christian Paris perfectly delivered his lines as VP Douglas Paunch, Christian Becerra played the tatooed grief counselor Mitch Mahoney with a insouciance and strong voice to great effect, and lastly Miss Kerchoff as Rona Lisa Peretti sang beautifully and captured that sense of wistful regret of her long ago former win.
The set was perfect, the lighting effective and purposeful, and the sound had no glitches that I noticed. All in all, a spectacular production. It goes in my book as one of the best.I only wish I had seen it earlier so I could have gone again.
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