Have Some F-U-N at 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee'


The 25th Annual Putnam Country Spelling Bee
Kelley Jayne Burns, left, who plays the moderator, poses with Jay Pecora, right, who plays a judge in the show.

SUNY Potsdam will present its production of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical comedy “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” with family-friendly shows running next week.

The unique performance will be presented in Sara M. Snell Music Theatre, which will be transformed to look like a school “cafegymatorium” for the play, complete with basketball hoops borrowed from Maxcy Hall.

The short, uninterrupted musical comedy will be presented in one act, and center around a fictional spelling bee at Putnam Valley Middle School. Six quirky adolescents—Olive Ostrovsky, William Barfée, Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, Marcy Park, Leaf Coneybear and Chip Tolentino—compete for the title, as three equally quirky adults supervise. The show includes audience participation.

With music and lyrics written by William Finn, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” premiered on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre in 2005. It was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two, including Best Book and Best Featured Actor in a Musical. The show closed in 2008 after 1,136 performances.

As a result of a unique partnership between the College’s departments of chemistry and theatre and dance, this will be SUNY Potsdam’s first student-led production to be presented during the summer. The musical production was initiated as a way to entertain the nearly 600 guests who are expected on campus to attend the 2010 Northeast Regional Meeting of the American Chemistry Society, which will be held at SUNY Potsdam from Wednesday, June 2 to Saturday, June 5. The nine-member cast pulled the show together with just two weeks of intense rehearsals.

“We felt that with so many people coming here, we wanted to showcase that Potsdam is the educational and cultural center of Northern New York. We said, ‘Let’s show what our campus has to offer,’” said show producer John Proetta ’10, who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry with a minor in biology. “We are going to have so much fun with the show. It’s just a great farce.”

The opening night performance at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 3 will be open to all American Chemistry Society members, and the public is invited to attend as well. “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will also be presented at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 5 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 6. Tickets are $7 for general admission and $5 for senior citizens and students. There is a flat family rate of $20 for groups of four to six people.

Founded in 1816, SUNY Potsdam is a four-year liberal arts college nestled on the outskirts of the Adirondack Park. Among the 64 units of The State University of New York system, SUNY Potsdam has the longest history and currently enrolls approximately 4,350 undergraduate and graduate students. It is well known for its academically challenging liberal arts and sciences and teacher education programs, as well as its world-renowned Crane School of Music.