Review: ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’

A ‘spell’tacle


“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a true ensemble show. The comedy-musical is currently playing through Jan. 23 at Studio Theatre of Long Island at the Bayway Arts Center. The show centers around a local spelling bee and the oddball youngsters competing, as well as the adults running the spelling bee. The story’s heart is the backstories of the youngsters who have made it to the bee. The show originally ran on Broadway from 2005 to 2008 and was a hit for its loveable characters and phenomenal cast, which included Tony Award-winner Celia Keenan-Bolger and Jesse Tyler Ferguson of “Modern Family” fame.

Bayway’s take on the show is no less loveable and fun. A prominent part of the show is the involvement of actual audience members who compete in the bee along with the cast. Four audience members were brought onstage in the performance and sat onstage with the cast.

The whole cast of Bayway’s production was phenomenal, with this being one of the best shows I have seen at Bayway thus far. Ryan Worrell brought amazing heart to the role of Leaf Coneybear, a role originated by Tyler Ferguson on Broadway. Leaf is only at the bee because the two winners above him at his school were unable to attend. He is a truly unique character and the type that is rarely seen represented onstage. He is weird and awkward, but loveable nonetheless. Victoria D’Orazio is also phenomenal as Loggaine Schwartzandgrubenniere, a youngster whose dad pressures her to be a winner in the highest sense. D’Orazio’s success lies in the little things. The idiosyncrasies she gives Loggaine when she’s watching the other spellers, the way she constantly adjusts her socks and takes deep breaths to calm herself down. Max Ryan as William Barfee makes an easily unlikeable character loveable. William is a germaphobe, rude and off-putting, but he’s also kind, and proud of the things that make him different, such as his “magic foot” that he uses to spell words out on the floor before he says them into the microphone.

Credit must be given to Chris Dufrenoy, who directed and staged the show. The direction is superb, with no member of the cast outshining the other. Dufrenoy and Michael Visco were responsible for set design, which was also extremely well done. It perfectly exudes the vibe of a local gymnasium.

Coming up next at Bayway will be the play “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” based on the 1967 film that starred the recently departed Sidney Poitier. In addition, the Manes Theatre in Lindenhurst, Studio Theatre’s other location which was recently renovated, will begin their winter/spring season with the play “See How They Run” on Jan. 14. For tickets, visit


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