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The Commons
Photo 1

Courtesy photo

The cast of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Back row from left: Eli Coughlin-Galbraith, Krista Coughlin-Galbraith, Katy Peterson, Jackie Cosse, Rachel Durante. Front row from left: Amelia Graff, Ian Epstein, Liam Johnson, Cassie Dunn.

The Arts

'Spelling Bee' musical concludes run at Evening Star Grange this weekend

Remaining performances are May 12, 13, and 14. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday performances are at 3 p.m. All seats are $16 and reservations may be made by email at or by calling the VTC reservation line at 802-258-1344.

Originally published in The Commons issue #407 (Wednesday, May 10, 2017).

DUMMERSTON—The Vermont Theatre Company’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin, concludes its two-week run this weekend at the Evening Star Grange in Dummerston Center.

The show is a musical comedy that tells the story of an eclectic group of six quirky youngsters (overseen by grown-ups who barely managed to escape childhood themselves) who vie for the spelling championship of a lifetime at the fictional Putnam County Spelling Bee.

While candidly disclosing hilarious and touching stories from their home lives, the tweens spell their way through a series of words hoping to never hear the soul-crushing, pout-inducing, “ding” of the bell that signals a spelling mistake.

The bee is perhaps the one place where they can stand out and fit in at the same time. Along the way, the spellers learn that winning may not be everything and that losing doesn’t necessarily make one a “loser.”

Six spellers enter: Chip, (the boy scout), Schwarzy (the youngest and most politically aware), Coneybear (the somewhat wide-eyed offspring of hippie parents), Barfée (the allergy-plagued outsider), Marcy (the over-achiever), and Olive (the tentative newcomer). Only one speller will leave victorious.

In an unusual twist, several real audience members are invited to the stage at each performance to compete in the bee alongside the six young prodigies, trying their best to keep up and not to be eliminated too early. This brings a certain unpredictability to each performance and guarantees that every night will be different.

Spelling Bee began as a workshop in Massachusetts in 2004, and quickly moved to off-Broadway, where it sold out its original run and was extended several times due to glowing reviews and word of mouth.

It moved to Broadway’s Circle in the Square on April 15, 2005, and was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two: best book of a musical and best featured actor. It was also nominated for three Drama Desk Awards, two Lucille Lortel Awards, and two Theatre World Awards.

The show closed on Jan. 20, 2008, after 1,136 performances, and has seen huge success in two national tours and numerous regional and international productions.

The New York Times called Spelling Bee “effortlessly endearing ... gold stars all around,” and Variety said it was “so generously warm-hearted, only the most bitter misanthrope could resist its charms.”

The VTC cast includes as the spellers: Krista Coughlin-Galbraith, Rachel Durante, Liam Johnson, Amelia Graff, Cassie Dunn, and Ian Epstein; and as the adults: Jackie Cosse, Eli Coughlin-Galbraith, and Katy Peterson.

The production is being co-directed by Bob Kramsky (stage) and Ryan Buck (music), stage-managed by Brenda Seitz, and choreographed by Cassie Dunn.

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