Sunday, July 5, 2009

Spelling Bee (Atlantis Productions)

♣♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

What makes this musical unique is the inclusion of four guest spellers, two of which are celebrities and the other two just anyone from the audience. Hence, it is made sure that every show is different from the last one.

The celebrity spellers for the night were Gian Magdangal and Moi Ortiz, who I think I have already seen somewhere but cannot remember where exactly. For someone who has already been on another musical (West Side Story) Gian seemed shy on stage, or perhaps he was just being polite because it was not his play anyway. He was asked to spell dog and sciapodi-something (sorry, I forgot). As for Moi, Ms. Peretti's introductions of him were dead-on: Mr. Ortiz is wearing the latest Zac Efron hairstyle; and "Mr. Ortiz uses his shoes to check his reflection. I remember a video I have seen online where Lea Salonga was the guest speller and she was introduced as: Ms. Salonga just found out that she was a Vietnamese prostitute in her past life. HAHAHAHAHA!

Marcy the snobbish and uber talented girl steals the show when she starts singing and dancing (cartwheeling and a lot more) I Speak Six Languages. I think that is the highlight of the show, and also the scene after that with Jesus, Jesus! I knew you were Asian! They bring the house down with that one.

What is really entertaining about this musical is the funny and dead-on quips. Aside from the introductions, the sentence examples that Vice Principal Panch gives are just hilarious. Like in that word that meant something like big behind he used a line from My Humps, What you gonna do with all that junk, all that junk inside that -insert word here- trunk. Every sample sentence is funny and since there is a vast number of terms that could be found in a dictionary, they could always change the words and come up with clever and funnier examples.

Another strength of this show is still connected to its adaptability. It will never grow old because spelling bees are common fixtures in every kid's elementary school life. In short the theme of this musical will always be relevant and anyone who watches it would eventually be able to relate to it. Anyone who has gone to school would know the feeling of not being able to spell a word.

Each of the six spellers has his/her own story and hang ups in life. Some of them even have flashbacks and the other spellers double as their relatives. That is what I like about this show. While the costume transition is not that subtle (they do it on the spot while another character is on the spotlight) the transition from one character to another is smoothly executed. I simply admire all of them in the cast. It is hard enough to act childish or childlike without resorting to the typical stereotypes and yet they are able to dive straight into their characters and stick to their invented mannerisms (like Barfee's Magic Foot) and different attitudes. Special mention goes to Noel Rayos who plays Mitch Mahoney. One minute he is the gay parent and then the next thing you know he is back to being the paroled guy doing community service.

The real source of entertainment for this show is the script. The musical numbers are lively but not attention-grabbing enough. There is nothing much to see on stage. It is a Spelling Bee after all so you only see chairs and the desk where Ms. Peretti and Vice Principal Panch announce the words. And of course the actors are fantastic. It is really that actor-dialogue combo that makes it work. Highly enjoyable show, so worth the admission price.

Another thing I forgot to mention is how the audience seems to be part of the play itself. It is just like watching a real spelling bee taking place, and it is evident every time one of the characters gets eliminated. The audience really empathizes and a chorus of Awww... is heard. The audience is not alienated, which makes watching the play more engaging.

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