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The magic behind the Spelling Bee / April 16, 2015

Almost everyone has something in their life that they are willing to invest their time and energy in with no concern for anything but the joy of seeing a project completed in a positive manner.

It may be a perfectly landscaped yard, a restored old car, or seeing your child hit his or her first ball in a little league game; but the satisfaction comes from putting your best into making it happen.

Such is the case with Halifax County Little Theatre’s latest production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” The musical’s directors and producers are putting hundreds of hours in to ensure the best product to the public for one of their favorite comic entertainments.

Director Andy Rice, musical director Sheri Blackwell, and producer Cyndi Overby are putting everything they know about the stage into one of the funniest shows to come from Broadway in years. One thing they all share is a love for the material. Director Rice has wanted to do this show since he first saw it several years ago, mostly because of his love for the mixed up group of characters; a group of middle school misfits desperately wanting to win.

The director is most excited about the quality of the cast that HCLT has assembled for this performance. Rice describes the group as very good singers who have fallen into their parts quickly and meshed as a group to create the slightly warped yet sympathetic group of contestants. He also adds that he likes, “that the show is a bit edgy and definitely intended for an adult audience.” He says that all of the actors, musicians, and production crew have been so good at doing their jobs that he has just had to, “sit back and focus on the performances, which are wonderful.” He is anxious for the audiences to see the show because they will surely leave laughing.

Rice is assisted by Blackwell, who returns to HCLT having worked on some of their most successful shows of the recent past. She last directed for “The Man Who Saved Christmas.”

She says that “Spelling Bee” is quickly becoming one of her favorites because of the characters.

“I love that each character has their quirks and oddball ways of spelling words that would be unusual in any situation,” she said. Even more interesting is that many of these techniques are really used by spellers in the real national bee as seen on ESPN. Blackwell travels nightly from Raleigh N.C. to be with the cast and her most vivid memory of the experience may be a run-in with a bear late one night on her way home. The bear lost.

Blackwell is also quick to praise the talent of the performers.

“This is one of the quickest groups to get their characters into the songs and blend together as a group,” she said.

The result is a very enjoyable presentation for the audience that will keep them laughing with the unusual situations and tensions reminiscent of a real spelling bee.

Behind the scenes, Overby is controlling all of the non performance oriented aspects of the show. As producer she coordinates the services of the lighting, sound, decorating, and production crews and keeps the show moving start to finish.

“The whole process has been the easiest I have been involved with. I think all of the actors have come together so fast that we have not had to struggle to put the show together,” she said.

“All of the players have been having so much fun that it seems that there is not much work in putting the show together.”

This producer has done a lot of work, even if it doesn’t seem like it to her. Getting all of the costumers, prop people, and backstage workers to complete their jobs on time is never easy. The result is a visual presentation that will put the audience into a very real middle school Cafegymnatorium setting that will bring back memories of their own youthful experiences at a troubling age.

Overby has high praise for the folks that are never seen by the audience but contribute so much to the success of the presentation.

“The set builders and decorators have created a great looking set, and the costume crew has assembled some great looks for the cast.”

Overby believes that audiences will be pleased with the show and that the laughs are from start to finish.

“The show is very adult and that should be something different for our audience,” she said.

Make plans now to attend the show and maybe leave the younger members of the family home for the night. You will be introduced to the most unusual group of adolescents you are likely to meet anywhere. You will quickly find one to root for and share their pain and joys as they progress through the angst ridden evening. In the end there can be only one winner, but every audience member can leave feeling like one with the positive vibe generated by lots of good laughs.

Additional performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and conclude on Sunday, at 3 p.m. Tickets are available at the Prizery box office or by calling (434) 572-8339. They are also available on-line at Get your tickets today to ensure the best seats for the most interesting and entertaining spellers you are likely to encounter anywhere.

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