(The following is a press release from Jones County Junior College.)
ELLISVILLE – While it may have been a while since you've been in a Spelling Bee, Jones County Junior College's Theater Department is inviting everyone to not only witness this funny musical Spelling Bee, but you could also be an actual participant. The musical theater production, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" is being directed by Rob Mulholland, with musical producer and JCJC fine arts instructor, Jennifer Hart, and Nikki Johnson assisting with producing duties. The entertaining musical with four additional cast members chosen from the audience begins Friday and Saturday, March 18 & 19, at 7 p.m. in the JCJC M.P. Bush Fine Arts Auditorium. Sunday's matinee begins at 2:30 p.m. General admission is $10 with all high school and college students receiving free admission with a valid student ID. NOTE: The content of this musical is PG 13. Contact the JCJC Fine Arts Office for more information at 601-477-4094.
"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" will be unlike any show JCJC has ever showcased. The cast consists of six mid-pubescents who vie for the spelling championship of a lifetime, with two sets of parents with unique family situations. The only adults are the two co-hosting the Spelling Bee and a comfort counselor to console and encourage the participants. In a twist to this eclectic musical comedy, Hart explained four, different audience members will be chosen to be part of the show each night making each night truly unique.
"The JCJC actors have to come up with witty lines in a matter of seconds, or improvise to make the audience members playing spelling bee participants' reactions fit in the show. These unplanned moments are bound to provide some unexpected laughs and it will also challenge our students to be ready for a response," said Hart.
Improvisation should not be a problem for Laurel native and theater veteran with 28 shows to her credit, Lydia Myers who portrays Rona Lisa Peretti, the former spelling bee champion who returns to host the Spelling Bee.
"This musical will keep the audience on their toes! A lot of the dialogue is improvisation… providing a fresh experience to every audience," said Myers. "This is the most unusual show I've been a part of due to the improvisations and ad-libs that occur throughout the show. It definitely keeps me and my co-actor host on our toes to come up with quick-witted dialogue. Many times, we can't stop laughing!"
Myers' co-host is Steven Jones of Starkville who also has a lot of JCJC and community theater experience to his credit. He plays the Vice Principal, Douglas Panch who returns to the Spelling Bee after an "incident" five year years ago. The other adult characters in the play include two sets of parents and comfort counselor, Mitch Mahoney, played by JCJC sophomore and theater veteran, David Walker of Laurel. He plays an ex-convict ordered to do community service consoling kids and handing out juice-boxes to losing students.
As expected, some parents will be close by coaching their children, making for some comical moments, like Jordan Sanders of Ellisville's character, Carl Grubenierre. Sanders's theater friend, Gary Young plays Sanders "partner," Dan Schwartz and together they are fathers to Logaine Schwartz and Grubenierre, played by Katie Hovan of Oak Grove.
"The biggest challenge playing my character is that he's a gay man and I am not. It's difficult to portray that on stage," said Sanders who has performed in shows at South Jones High School and JCJC. "This show has taught me that getting out of your comfort zone is necessary, it always is in theater, but in my case I have to go above and beyond!"
Olive Ostrovsky, played by Haley Biglane of Ellisville is new to JCJC Theater but she has some experience in several theatrical roles in church productions. This shy speller muddles through despite having her mother, who is an ashram in India, played by Coco Caldwell of Laurel and her father who always works late and is played by Lamar Saddler of Quitman.
"This musical is hilarious and very unique. You feel like you are in an actual spelling bee. It's very comedic and it also has its sweet and sad moments, like the song, 'The I Love You Song'," said Biglane.
Offering some comic relief, as well as life lessons is the character, William Barfee portrayed by Jonathan LaCourse of Long Beach. He said he relates to his character to a tee, which makes playing "Barfee" challenging at times.
"There are so many parallels between Barfee's experiences and some events from my childhood. He's the fat kid who was bullied to the point where he is always confrontational and lacks the ability to really trust anyone….I have never performed in a comedy before; only tragedies or playing a dark character. This was a whole new challenge for me, not being so serious!"
Other challengers in the Spelling Bee include Carter Poister of Laurel playing homeschooler, Leaf Coneybear, and Chip Cooley of Hopkinsville, Kentucky playing the Boy Scout and previous Spelling Bee champion, Chip Tolentino, and as Jesus for a cameo appearance. Neva Catlett of Lucedale will be portraying Marcy Park, the stereotypical, serious Catholic girl who speaks six languages and is an overachieving perfectionist. This is Catlett's first production, partly because she's majoring in Engineering; however she shared this observation about the play.