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Grain Valley High School's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Selected Reviews

Jaeden Wilkes
Belton High School

Submitted for publication to KC Star Online

This show is mind-blowing. The combination of an eye-catching set, costumes that pop, and noticeable character development is engaging and entertaining. Grain Valley High School students do an incredible job of showing passion, talent, and energy that never falters.

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE was first performed on Broadway in 2005, and now the talented actors of Grain Valley High School are performing this silly and eccentric show. The show starts with each character being introduced. As their spelling words get increasingly harder, the characters reveal more about who they are as people. Unusual but sweet romances emerge, emotional ballads and silly hijinks alike continue throughout the show.

One of the most notable actors in this show is Jarrett Dietz, playing Leaf Coneybear. His characterization of Leaf is comical and energetic, even when the attention is not on him. There is never a moment where he is out of character. Olivia Ash plays Olive Ostrovsky and she has a beautiful voice. Her passion throughout the show is evident in her body language and every line she delivers.

Another notable character is Marcy Park, played by Mariah Gattenby-Snyder. She does dramatic flips and other extraordinary tricks while singing in her astounding performance. Nathan Steinmuller, playing Chip Tolentino, accurately portrays the awkwardness of his character. While his character is the first to be eliminated, he still gives it all he has the whole time he is on stage.

The technical elements of this show are all so creative and fitting to the show. The lights are always reflective of the mood on stage, the props are exciting, and the costumes are perfect for each character.

There are some scenes and songs where it is hard to understand what the actors are saying. There are also some moments where the actors sound muffled. In the first act, some props fall apart. Other than that, there are not many noticeable problems.

Overall, this show is the one to see. It has goofy characters, heartwarming moments, and shenanigans all around. There is a little something for everyone in it, so try not to miss it!


Lillian Garcia
Belton High School

Submitted for publication to The Pitch


Comedy, stress, and secondhand embarrassment? Welcome to THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE!

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE is a musical that is by Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn. It was on Broadway in 2005 and it is based on an Improvisational show called C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E by Rebecca Feldman. The story follows six incredibly quirky children in their county spelling bee. The show gives you some insights into each of the children's lives, making the spelling bee that much more emotional than your average spelling bee.

Aiden Kroenke's performance as William Barfee, a boy with a peanut allergy and magic foot, is both hilarious and engrossing. The development of William's personality from a somewhat hostile, bully-like boy, to a certain type of sweetness as his crush on Olive appears is oddly heartwarming. His ability to create fascinating chemistry between Olivia Ash's character, Olive, is certainly remarkable. Olivia Ash as Olive makes for an interestingly outstanding performance. Olivia is able to show the true loneliness of Olive in a relatable way. Her talent to switch between awkward comedy and significant seriousness when needed is noteworthy.

Jarrett Dietz, as Leaf Coneybear, has a powerful and amusing stage presence. Everything from his animated facial expressions to the way he walks is incredibly enthralling. The effort from Hayley Elkins as Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre is beautiful. She is able to sing, even with her unique character voice, and still be understood. Alex Kroenke, as Vice-Principal Panch, brings the whole show together using outstanding comedic timing delivering his word definitions throughout the spelling bee.

The costumes are phenomenally idiosyncratic to each character, portraying exactly who everyone is. Ensemble costumes are able to portray a personality for everyone as well. The set work is simplistic, yet realistic, and engaging. The lighting helps to illustrate the stress of winning for the children throughout the production. The publicity for this show is absolutely outstanding. The mini-sculptures and the individual lockers for the characters help make the environment of the show lively.

There is not much variety in the lighting color choices and the lighting occasionally feels a bit too dim. A couple of scenes feel as though there is not enough energy and some actors tend to block others during choreography. There are some occasions where the actors cannot be understood either because of a lack of projection or due to microphone complications. However, these are minor issues that do not detract from the overall performance.

To conclude, Grain Valley High School has a simply entertaining rendition of THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE. The entirety of the cast, including the ensemble, create an authentic feeling of the awkward, uncomfortable, stressful, yet hilarious time of middle school. Each character is incredibly quirky and makes for a beautifully wholesome performance. This show will have you laughing and leave you realizing just how pandemonium life truly is.

Reina Gray
Center High School

Submitted for publication to Grain Valley News


Chaotic brilliance awaits at Grain Valley High School. THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE tells the story of six extremely unique children as they embark on their own enlightening journeys in pursuit to be the spelling champ.

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE premiered on Broadway in 2008. This production was not originally a musical, but actually was based upon an improvisational play, "C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E", performed by the New York Improv Troupe, "The Farm".

Aidan Kroenke plays the unlucky, lugubrious William Barfee with utmost ease and confidence. Kroenke's portrayal is well done; he convinces you of Barfee's oddness and repellant personality while also showing vulnerability and loneliness. A perfect compliment to Kroenke's Barfee is Olivia Ash as Olive Ostrovsky. Ash's Olive is also strange and lonely in some ways but proves to be exceedingly kind and resilient in light of her unfortunate situation. Ash transforms the meek contestant at the beginning of the production into a more confident yet humble individual at the finish. In contrast to sweet Olive, Hayley Elkins' Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre is slightly abrasive, but well-meaning . Elkins fully commits to the awkward, bold Logainne. Elkins steadfastly maintains the lisp of her character throughout the production even while singing, purposefully holding her face in an appropriately slanted, slack-jawed manor. Jarrett Dietz is marvelously scatterbrained as Leaf Coneybear. Dietz quickly transitions between the honest, sweetly simple Leaf to the entranced personality of his sock puppet who seems to know how to spell just about anything.

The other spelling bee contestants, Marcy Park (Mariah Gattenby-Snyder) and Chip Tolentino (Nathan Steinmuller), both perform impressive and specific characters. Gattenby-Snyder's Marcy Park is stern, but not all business. During her song "I Speak Six Languages", Gattenby-Snyder performs acrobatics about the stage while singing, further emphasizing the many talents of Marcy Park. Steinmuller's physicality in portraying Chip is essential and impeccably illustrates the physical woe of the raging pubescence that is his downfall. Steinmuller falls to his knees and crouches such that his discomfort is unmistakable. Ashlyn Frost is the pleasant former Spelling Bee Champ turned host, Rona Lisa Peretti. Frost boasts a beautiful, melodious voice as she recounts "Rona's Favorite Moments".

The set by Kierstin Schwirtz fully realizes a gymnasium customized to the school with impactful details like a clearly painted pig mascot, anti-bullying posters, and spelling bee sponsors fully entrenching the audience into Putnam County. The costuming by Savannah Murphy and Brianna Whitehead fully reflects the personalities of the six competitors as well as effectively incorporating the chorus in the production.

Many characters deliver their dialogue with fun voices or other unique quirks but sometimes these modifications hinder the diction. The sound of the characters were sometimes muffled or difficult to hear but the actors made up for it in projection and confidence.

Musical Theater may be pandemonium but Grain Valley High School tames it in time for Thanksgiving.

About the Author

Rackers, Brad

Rackers, Brad

Chair - FY20 Season


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