Arts & Entertainment

‘Putnam County Spelling Bee’ Spells ‘Swell’ at Summit Playhouse

The "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" is running at the Summit Playhouse April 26, 27 and May 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11. Credits: Summit Playhouse
SUMMIT, NJ – The audience gave “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” a well deserved standing ovation at its opening on April 26.
Although the musical won six Tony awards and had a recent re-incarnation at Paper Mill Playhouse, the intimacy of the Summit Playhouse and a cast of strong voices, and equally strong performances, give this show the jolt it really needs.
Julie Galorenzo as Rona Peretti, the real estate agent who has been a judge at the spelling bee contest for the last two years, is a pivotal figure. Her clear singing voice and direct rapport with the audience starts things off to a positive start.  Along the way, she provides ‘factoids’ about the contestants. (One who was selected from the audience, she said, has a tattoo in the shape of the Philippines.)
Filling in for the principal is the assistant principal, Douglas Panch, played by Scott Yellen. His timing is superb as he patiently gives the contestants word definitions, uses in sentences and other hints.  This all resulted in plenty of laughs.  Early on, he notes that he’s “in a much better place now.”

David Simon as Barfee, an overweight nerd, has a Magical Foot that helps him spell words.  The cast joins in for one of the snazziest numbers in the show. He gradually develops a crush on Olive.  She says if you reverse the first two vowels of her name, it becomes “I love.”
Maria Stephania as Olive has perhaps the most heart-tugging role, as she tries to explain her father’s absence and her mother’s trip to India.  Her appealing  “My Friend the Dictionary” and “The I Love You Song” with Simon are both winners.
Kristin Bennett as Logainne is small in stature, but captivates the audience with her rubbery expressions and determination to win the bee.
Abby Espiritu as Marcy captivates the audience with her distinctive number “I Speak Six Languages” and her gymnastic abilities as well. Marcy is seen as an over-achieving Asian American who rebels against her parents’ expectations.
Dan Zimberg as Chip, dressed as a Boy Scout, is hilarious in his ‘erection’ song, not to mention tossing out PTA refreshments later in the show.  
Clint J. Hromsco as Leaf, who seems to have gotten into the mix accidentally, manages to hang on for quite a while.  His affectionate yet loser personality somehow connects in his “I’m Not That Smart.”  
DeWane Hill as Mitch is terrific as a former tough-guy prisoner who is doing community service. He knows how to strut his stuff and keep his swagger under control when he needs to comfort the losers.  He shines in “A Prayer for the Comfort Counselor.” At one point, he and Rona join forces in a stirring duet to Olive and her longing for her parents.
What adds to the fun is a well planned idea to draw from the audience for three of the contestants. Everyone got into the spirit of the show, holding their own and adlibbing along the way.
Director and choreographer Brian J. Swasey deserves kudos for making the most of these excellent performers, with both singing and dancing joyously on the small stage.
Musical director Jeffrey Campos, with music just off-stage, supported the singers without overwhelming them.
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” has plenty of heart and director Swasey lets it all shine through. The book is by Rachel Seinkin with music and lyrics by William Finn.  The show was first performed at The Barrington Stage Company in Massachusetts before it went to Off-Broadway and then Broadway for a successful run.

“Spelling Bee” continues through May 11. For tickets, call 908-273-2192 or visit

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Upcoming Events


Sat, April 21, 2:00 PM

Summit Free Public Library, Summit

Grades K-5: Saturday Serendipity

Arts & Entertainment Education


Sun, April 22, 8:00 AM

Summit Summer Farmers Market, Summit

Summit Farmers Market

Community Calendar Food & Drink Green Health & Wellness


Sun, April 22, 1:00 PM

17 Kent Place Boulevard, Summit

Self-Care Event

Health & Wellness Religions And Spirituality

Summit Fire Department Blotter

02/01/2018, 7:26 am - FD dispatched to Route 78 East Bound mile marker 47.2 for a reported motor vehicle accident with entrapment and injuries. On arrival both the Springfield and Summit Fire Departments set up for extrication. The vehicle was chocked to stabilize the vehicle. EMS performed patient care. A hose line was stretched for possible fire suppression by the Berkeley Heights FD.

Summit Police Blotter

April 11, 2018

3/13 - Jayhee Cho, 32, of Summit was arrested and charged with criminal mischief. Mr. Cho was processed and released with a pending court date.

3/13 - Aseyefigh K. Papanye, 30, of Brooklyn, New York was arrested and charged with theft of credit cards, fraudulent use of credit cards, theft by deception, theft by unlawful taking, obstruction of the administration of the law, and possession of ...

Audio: Point View's Petrides Says Despite Company Growth, Netflix Stock Valuation Just Too High

April 18, 2018

Point View Wealth Management's Managing Director and Portfolio Manager, John Petrides, live on Bloomberg Radio discussing what to do with Netflix stock post the strong quarterly results:

Note -  interview starts at 2:00-minute mark.

For nearly 25 years, Point View Wealth Management, Inc. has been working with families in ...

Team Veronica Holds "Be the Match" Drive Apr. 23

Team Veronica is coming to a town near you!

Veronica is a seven-year-old who is in need of a bone marrow transplant. Be The Match is a national registry for finding a match(es) for a bone marrow transplant. It is a simple swab test of the inside of your mouth. 

On Mon., April 23, Be The Match will be at the Bayonne Fire House from 3 - 7 p.m.

Veronica of West ...

Fear of Rising Rates? Remember The Reason You Own Bonds

If the current interest environment has you concerned about your bond portfolio, remember why you are investing in bonds.  The role bonds, or fixed income, play in a portfolio is not solely based on performance.  Bonds are used to offer stability, particularly when stock market volatility is rising. Rate hikes can dampen bond performance, but keep perspective on how rising rates impact ...

Cluelessly Clueless

I teenaged my way through high school under the assumption that my parents had no idea what I was doing.  I like to think I was pretty good at withholding information and presenting situations in ways that were other than they really were.


Still, sometimes they found things out.  Like the time my friends plopped me on our front door step at one o'clock in the morning ...

Practice for the PARCC @ Your Library

Students in Grades 3 and up who live in Summit can practice the Math and Language Arts skills that they learned in school and prepare for the upcoming PARCC exam using the Summit Free Public Library’s FREE subscriptions to Lumos Step Up and Learning Express.  

To access Lumos Step Up and Learning Express, visit the library’s website:

Mouse-over ...