Arts & Entertainment

Spotswood High School Drama Club Wins First Prize in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"

Chip (Matt Pelham) tries to be a repeat winner at the Spotswood High School Drama Clubs production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." Credits: Dawn Miller
Schwarzy (Adi Zacks) tries to please her demanding dads by winning first place in the Tony Award-winning musical, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." Credits: Dawn Miller
Andrew Faulkenberry gives a memorable portrayal of the misunderstood and eccentric Barfee. Credits: Dawn Miller
Even Spotswood High School Social Studies teacher, Colleen Meyers gets in line for a shot at the top spelling prize. Credits: Dawn Miller
Appleby Elementary School fifth grader, Corey Miller gets serenaded by Mitch (Clara Melvin) and the rest of the Putnam County spellers before making his exit from the spelling bee. Credits: Dawn Miller
The cast of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" takes a well-deserved bow. Credits: Dawn Miller

SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Taking first place in a spelling bee is a coveted prize. Think about the stress and the pressure, standing up in front of an audience and having to correctly spell word after word, facing rejection every time a contestant steps up for his or her turn.

It is a metaphor on life, which is what made "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" such a success when the musical debuted on Broadway in 2005. When the spellers from the Spotswood High School Drama Club took the stage for their opening night performance of the Rachel Sheinkin play, it was quickly evident that they had the ability and conviction to go all the way to the final curtain call to claim first prize.

Under the direction of Spotswood High School English and Drama teacher, Annie Williams, the cast found its stride playing an assorted bunch of misfits and overachievers competing to become top speller. With Musical Director Sarah Carino-Koza, providing the musical backdrop, the student-actors handled the harmonious, dramatic and comedic demands of the play like seasoned professionals.

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Adi Zacks had the female lead in last year's production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, "South Pacific." The junior showed she had the vocal chops, playing the cockeyed optimist, Nellie Forbush. However, as the quirky and slightly neurotic Schwarzy, Zach displayed her comedic talent as well. Senior Andrew Faulkenberry gave a memorable performance as the somewhat weird and misunderstood Barfee as did Connor Jaedicke as the socially awkward, super-hero wannabe, Coneybear. From Devin Ryan's portrayal of the perfectionist, wonderkind Marcy to Maia Revilla and Evan Maggio as Schwarzy's demanding, New Age dads, each performer shined in his or her role, making for an evening of entertaining and noteworthy theater.

A distinctive element of the Tony Award-winning play is the audience element. Four audience members are typically asked to become part of the Putnam County Spelling Bee. The Spotswood High School Drama Club continued the tradition, offering audience members the opportunity to take part. Prior to each performance, the audience can purchase a chance to become an actual part of the play. Each raffle ticket costs one dollar. As the play is set to begin, the four members are announced. The participants then take their place up on stage and even get called up to the microphone just like the other cast members to spell words.

Social Studies teacher and varsity cheerleading coach, Colleen Meyers was among the participants in the opening night performance of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." Meyers was the third speller to be eliminated, receiving her complimentary juice box as she was escorted off the stage by comfort counselor, Mitch (Clara Melvin).

Whether you missed out on your opportunity in the spelling bee in school and want a rematch or just need a laugh, head to the Spotswood High School Cafetorium this weekend to catch one of the final three performances of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." You will most certainly get a chuckle, even if you don't get a chance to head up on stage for the opportunity to get a juice box from Mitch. Melvin will still sing the "Prayer of the Comfort Counselor," which was a fun, toe-taping number that certainly stuck a chord.

There aren't any spoilers here. If you want to find out who won "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," you will have to see for yourself if it was Olive (Jenna Citro), Barfee (Faulkenberry), Coneybear (Jaedicke), Chip (Matt Pelham), Schwarzy (Zacks) or Marcy (Ryan).

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the St. Patrick's Day performance, which begins at 7 p.m. The drama club will hold two spelling bees on Saturday, March 18; a matinee at 2 p.m. and an evening show at 7 p.m. Ticket prices are $10 for adults and $6 for seniors and students.  Raffle tickets for the opportunity to show off your spelling prowess are $1 each.

The Spotswood High School Cafetorium is located at 105 Summerhill Road in Spotswood. Now can you spell cow or do you need the definition first or perhaps need to hear it used in a sentence?


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