Preview: Hilltop presents ‘Spelling Bee’

‘Spelling Bee’ will be performed April 21-23 in DPAC. Photo by Allie Card

The Hilltop Players will present their musical production, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” April 21-23 in DPAC.

The show, directed by Hilltop Players Vice President Rachel Lyon, follows six children as they battle for regional spelling supremacy. The vocabulary-related antics are punctuated by candid, personal flashbacks from each character’s home life, some funny and some surprisingly heartfelt, all of which provide the young spellers with compelling backstories and motivations. There is no outright antagonist – most of the show’s tension comes from the high-stress environment and the conflict between the vastly different children.

The characters are joined onstage by four members of the audience who are called upon to compete as well. This goes beyond simple audience participation – the volunteers are onstage for a significant amount of time, with songs and scenes occurring between their turns. This, along with the action occasionally spilling offstage and into the aisles, makes the show incredibly immersive, turning DPAC itself into the set. Each of the show’s costumes is impressive in its simplicity and authenticity, be it the vice principal’s suit, one child’s pink overalls or another’s dangling rainbow suspenders.

From the emotional “Woe Is Me” and “The I Love You Song” to the less-touching “Magic Foot” and “My Unfortunate Erection” – the latter of which speaks for itself – William Finn’s music is varied, unique, and catchy throughout, not to mention well-performed by the cast. The score is also used to great effect in repeated refrains, such as the harmonized goodbyes upon a child’s elimination or the frantically-sung two lines that prove true throughout the show – “Life is random and unfair/life is pandemonium!”

Kyle Torres, a member of Hilltop’s Proposal Committee, which decides what shows are ultimately produced, said “Spelling Bee” was chosen because “it was clear that the members of the production staff were passionate about the show and they had a very solid game plan for doing this very fun show.”

Lyon proposed the show because it is “fairly simple … but it has a lot of heart. It’s deeper than just kids at a spelling bee. It’s a show anyone can relate to.”

She also cited a personal love of the show and a specific appreciation for the audience participation, which makes every performance unique.

The show is stage managed by Hilltop Tech Chair Elyse Corbett and Isabella Guyton, music directed by Gina Iacoviello and co-produced by Allie Card and Jesse Lawlor.

Opening night is Thursday, April 21 and the show closes on Saturday, April 23.

All shows are at 7 p.m. and admission is free, but donations to the Hilltop Players are accepted at the door.

[Editor’s Note: Allie Card is a member of The Gatepost editorial staff.]