Drama students ready for fall production

The Hill City Drama Department presents its fall production, the musical comedy “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” from Nov. 17-19. The production will be held at the high school theatre, with all three showings at 7 p.m. Starring in the play is, from left, back, Hunter Schroeder and Tori Lind; middle, Jessica Welu, Taylor Sandven and Cooper Timm; front, Katie Woodward, Erica Houser, Marion Hohn and Jayden Rogers.

Hill City High School theatre students will perform in the Tony Award-winning musical comedy “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Performances are Thursday, Nov. 17, through Saturday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Hill City High School theatre.

This quirky show centers on a middle school spelling bee and chronicles the experiences of six pre-adolescents vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime. It’s the story of overachievers, their hopes, their dreams and their angst as they compete for a slot in the National Spelling Bee. Overseen by adults still stuck in adolescence themselves, they sing their stories, utilize unique spelling techniques and learn that losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is based on an original improvisational play conceived by Rebecca Feldman and performed by The Farm, a New York improvisational comedy troupe. The 2005 Broadway production, directed by James Lapine and produced by David Stone with music and lyrics by William Finn, was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two, including Best Book.

Under the direction of Bryon Christian and Lori Jones, the play is the first musical tackled by the troupe in over 10 years.

When asked why, Christian said, “In a school our size, finding enough singers willing to also act can be a problem.  This year, however, we were fortunate enough to have some amazing students audition.”

In choosing this show, he said, “Spelling Bee is a great non-traditional musical and is an exceptional vehicle in which to explore character.   The play also incorporates audience volunteer spellers and allows for quite a bit of improvisation.”

Jones added, “Consequently, audience members will never see the same show twice.”

Senior Cooper Timm, a veteran of six previous productions, remarked, “I am very proud to be a part of such a great cast and crew.  This production will blow everyone away!”

Christian concurred, and said, “This cast is remarkable and a joy to work with.  They are really going to surprise a lot of people.”

The play features Timm as William Barfee.  Juniors are Tori Lind as Rona Peretti, the number-one realtor in Putnam County (and a former Putnam County Spelling Bee champion herself); Marion Hohn as Spelling Bee newcomer Olive Ostrovsky; and Hunter Schroeder as word pronouncer and vice principal Douglas Panch. Sophomores include Katie Woodward, playing home-schooled student Leaf Coneybear; Jessica Welu as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere and Erica Houser as the multilingual overachiever Marcy Park.  The cast is rounded out with freshman Jayden Rogers as Chip Tolentino, last year’s spelling bee winner; and Holden Stach as the comfort counselor, Mitch Mahoney. Senior Taylor Sandven is stage manager.

Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for seniors/students and can be purchased at the door. The event will also feature a dessert intermission, with proceeds going towards the students’ theatre trip to Denver in the spring.

For more information, please call the high school at (605) 574-3000.