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Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010

Marquette’s ‘Spelling Bee’ Is a Lesson in Fun

Theater Review

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Marquette University’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is sure to take you back to your school days.  The joys, terrors, triumphs and defeats of those times are all wrapped up in this cute and clever musical, which continues through Oct. 3 at the university’s Helfaer Theatre.

This show marks the opening of Marquette’s theater season and the debut of the school’s new artistic director, Debra Krajec. She gets an “A” for effort, as do the cast members. They get all the right answers for creating a fun, entertaining evening.

This 2005 Broadway musical, set in a school gymnasium, runs 90 minutes without an intermission.

Spelling Bee
was written as an ensemble piece, so technically there aren’t any starring roles. However, one would be remiss not to mention the top-notch performance of Matt Wickey as William Barfee. You remember this guy—the overweight kid with thick glasses, a nasal voice and a terrible underbite? Barfee seals the deal by wearing Bermuda shorts and a bow tie to the spelling bee. As Barfee, Wickey deftly uses his “magic foot” to tap out the correct spelling of words in the competition. The effect is hilarious.

Credit also goes to director Todd Denning for bringing out the best in his talented cast.  The actors work well together—and also with the handful of audience members who are brought onstage as spelling bee “contestants.”  One of the show’s earliest laughs comes when the spelling bee host announces that the school principal couldn’t make it because he was “looking into a bedbug problem.”

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
runs through Oct. 3 on the Marquette campus.