Musical comedy comes to the Centenary stage March 30


March 20, 2017

SHREVEPORT, LA — Centenary’s Hurley School of Music and its Marjorie Lyons Playhouse are teaming up to bring the 2004 musical comedy The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee to the Marjorie Lyons stage. Spelling Bee opens on Thursday, March 30 at 7:30 p.m. Additional performances are Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 2 at 2:00 p.m.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, with a score by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin, follows six young spellers who make it to the fictional Putnam County district spelling bee. The musical follows the comic trials and tribulations of these quirky youngsters as they compete for the coveted spot in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. The story brings alive messages that speak to audiences of all ages: the challenges of growing up and staying young, forming new relationships, and the strength that comes with losing gracefully.

The six spellers include Chip Tolentino, the county’s reigning champion (Alex Koch); Logainne Shwartzandgrubenierre (Jordan Vandiver), the youngest speller in the competition; William Barfeé (Aiden Poling), a boy who spells with his foot; Marcy Park (Tessa Anderson), recent transfer and one of the top ten spellers in the country; Leaf Coneybear (Jessie Bennevier), a strange young girl who makes her own clothes; and Olive Ovstrovsky (Sierra Worman), a lonely girl whose best friend is a dictionary.

The production also includes three adult characters: Rona Lisa Peretti, played by Victoria Sundin; Douglas Panch, played by Christian Roberson; and Mitch Mahoney, played by Timothy McCoy.

“My experience playing Olive has been an enlightening one as far as getting immersed in the role,” says freshman Sierra Worman. “I relate a lot to her on a personal level regarding her relationship with her father, but her social demeanor is much different from the way I interacted with people at that age. I’ve been able to tap into my own experience of childhood and bring the emotion that the role of Olive deserves.”

Aiden Poling has found playing bee contestant William Barfeé to be a fun challenge.

“Having the opportunity to play Barfeé on stage is so much fun, as he is quite different from any other character I have been cast as in the past,” says Poling. “Portraying children believably on stage comes with its own set of challenges, and part of our job as actors is to play these ‘nerds and dweebs’ as honestly as possible without falling into the trap of playing a stereotype. The stakes are high for Barfee – winning this year’s Bee is especially important, as he must avenge himself for the previous year, when he was tragically eliminated via peanut allergy.”

Centenary Artist in Residence Twyla Robinson and alumna Katie Dupont are co-directing the show, and Dupont also created the choreography. An unusual twist in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is the fact that four lucky audience members get to join the action each night and participate in the Bee.

“Welcoming a new group of guest spellers to the stage every night is what makes this show so unique,” says Dupont. “Each performance is difference for the audience as well as the performers. While the actors have to expect the unexpected, the biggest challenge as a choreographer was to create for the unexpected.”

The 2005 Broadway production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was nominated for six Tony Awards and won two, including Best Book. The show toured the United States in 2007 and has been produced around the world, including in Melbourne (2006), Seoul (2007), London (2011), Jerusalem (2012) and Mexico City (2013).

Tickets for Centenary’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee are available online at or by calling 318.869.5242.

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