‘Spelling Bee’ set to bring musical to PLT

PORTSMOUTH—“PLT” is the best way to spell “a good time” this June, as the Portsmouth Little Theatre prepares to raise the curtain on musical comedy The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Victoria Suarez, a frequent PLT player, was hard at work stenciling cinderblock outlines onto what will soon be the walls of Putnam’s school auditorium set before rehearsals began this week. Putnam marks her first directorial effort with PLT.

According to a synopsis from Music Theatre International, Putnam follows “an eclectic group of six mid-pubescents as they vie for the spelling championship of a lifetime.” Along the way, the spellers disclose “hilarious and touching details from their home lives,” adding sentimentality to the show’s raucous humor.

Though Putnam marks Suarez’s first turn as director, this isn’t the first time she’s been involved in the show. Back in her hometown of Houston, Texas, Suarez performed a role in the production.

“This is actually a show that I did my senior year of high school, so it’s kind of like going back to my roots. It’s really cool to be able to get a look from the director’s point of view instead of one of the characters. I’m really excited to be able to teach everyone what I know and to try to make everyone the best they can be. But this cast is so talented already, it’s insane.”

And that cast is excited to share their hard work with patrons next month. A mix of stage veterans and rookies, Putnam’s cast agrees that above all, they work together well.

Drew Cunningham is excited to return to the stage himself after working in the local theatre scene. Cunningham auditioned for Putnam after working with Suarez and another cast member, Nate Marcum, on a production at Shawnee State University. He said that Putnam was appealing to him for several reasons.

“I haven’t really had an opportunity to do a small cast show. That, plus it’s really funny. I just thought it would be pretty enjoyable to be a part of it. It has a lot of ad libbed moments, which I think is pretty cool. We get to play around and have a lot of fun with it.”

Cunningham said that the script provides players ample opportunity to flex their creative muscles, and that the production is a must see for the right audience. “It is side splittingly funny,” he said. “You may be a little shocked, so if you’re easily offended I would maybe sit it out. And definitely leave the [young] kids [at home]. If you’re looking for something really funny, really fun, and maybe the opportunity to join us on stage, it would be an excellent opportunity,” he says.

With this in mind, patrons should know that the show is rated PG-13 for language and mature content. They should also brush up on their spelling skills before filling the seats, as four audience volunteers will be selected each night to participate in the spelling bee alongside the cast.

For a community theater which is powered solely by volunteers, cast member Hanah Martin said that audience participation today can lead to a starring role tomorrow.

“If you want to come, you will get your chance to be onstage. And it isn’t just a little cameo, you’re onstage for the whole first act. And you participate in the spelling bee as a contestant. So if spelling is your thing, if you want to get into the swing of being onstage so you can know what it feels like, volunteering to be an audience participant is where it’s at.”

In addition to Putnam’s nostalgic brand of adolescent humor, Martin wants potential patrons to know that show offers so much more than catchy music and hilarious banter.

“It’s going to be a whirlwind of emotion. You’re going to laugh one second and cry the next. So be prepared for a really good show, and a really good story,” she said.

As Suarez prepares her cast for opening night, she hopes above all that the spellers of ‘Putnam County’ will have a full house in front of them. She and her cast have worked on all sides of the production both on and offstage, and they hope to share it all with patrons soon.

“I just really want to thank my cast and crew,” she said. “And the [PLT] Board [of Governors] for putting so much trust in me.”

“PLT hasn’t done a musical for a very long time’” Suarez adds. “I feel that Putnam is a way to bring that back, and I want us to bring it back with a bang.”

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will open on June 10, with additional performances on June 11, 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. A matinee performance will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 12. Tickets are $18 with discounts available for seniors and students.

To purchase tickets and see upcoming events, visit pltlive.com or follow them on Facebook. The Portsmouth Little Theatre is located at 1117 Lawson Street in Portsmouth.

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Victoria Suarez (center) poses with cast members (L to R) Josiah Burton, Hanah Martin, Shannon Grice and Heather Myers before rehearsal. The cast has worked on every aspect of the show, both onstage and off. Photo credit Kasie McCreary, Portsmouth Daily Times
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/05/web1_PLT1-1.jpgVictoria Suarez (center) poses with cast members (L to R) Josiah Burton, Hanah Martin, Shannon Grice and Heather Myers before rehearsal. The cast has worked on every aspect of the show, both onstage and off. Photo credit Kasie McCreary, Portsmouth Daily Times


By Kasie McCreary

[email protected]

Reach Kasie McCreary at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or by email at [email protected]

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