Theatre Review: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, March 7, 2008

Let’s settle one thing up front. “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a show ABOUT awkward 13-year-olds with pigtails, zits, and surging hormones. But it’s not designed for a pubescent audience. Many lines are double entendres, like this introduction of a contestant.

“A member of the agriculture club, Mr. Ruddell won a blue ribbon at last year’s fair for having the biggest cucumber in the county.”

Not exactly racy, but a bit worldly wise. The laughs continue when middle-aged audience members are called up as on-stage participants, to the delight of the crowd. 

“Mr. Larson likes to intimidate the other spellers by dressing like their dad.”  

And, in addition to some killer words that absolutely nobody can spell, there are local references. 

“Unfortunately, our usual word pronouncer, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger, will not be here. After last year’s bee, some of the kids were complaining that they couldn’t understand his pronunciations."

You’ll notice that we aren’t talking about the songs – they aren’t memorable. Even so, this unpretentious show rates as an unexpectedly pleasant surprise – a crazy left-field entry in the often predictable world of musical comedy.

"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" continues at the Sacramento Community Center Theatre through March 16th.