Go on down to the ‘25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson Rona Lisa Peretti, played by Claire Anderson, host of the spelling bee, pulls Logan Stapp portraying Chip Tolentino off of the spelling bee stage to break up a fight between him and fellow spelling bee competitor William Barfee played by Jonah Siebert.

BURNSIDE — Competition will be at an all-time high next weekend during the “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”.

Promised to be “one heck of a show,” according to director and Southeast Valley high school English teacher Britney Geisler; this year’s fall musical will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the Southeast Valley Middle School in Burnside. This is a new location from other years due to the renovation at the high school gym.

Times and dates could change, pending the results of the Southeast Valley high school football team’s playoff game.

If the team advances in play, the musical will be held on Sunday, presumably at 1 p.m. instead of Friday evening. Geisler said tickets for Friday night’s performance would automatically transfer to Sunday, unless ticket holders call ahead and state their preference for a Saturday night performance instead.

Tickets are $5 in advance and can be obtained by calling the Southeast Valley High School office at 515-352-3142 or will also be available at the door the night of the show for $7.

Social distancing seating will be available and masks are recommended.

On with the show…

Geisler said the musical, “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is based on a group of 10 middle school aged children that have qualified to be in the spelling bee.

“It’s zany. We have all kinds of personalities on the stage,” she said, adding there are eight adult roles in the musical as well. “It’s a very, very fun show. It’s light-hearted, but there are some deep moments with some family dynamics.”

Geisler said the cast has been amazing.

“We have big personalities,” she said. “The kids we have this year are just bursting at the seams with creativity and with this show, they get to really showcase that.”

Vice Principal Douglas Panch is the spelling bee pronouncer and will be played by Reed Andrews.

Spelling bee hostess is Rona Lisa Peretti, who Geisler said is a former spelling bee champion. This part is played by Claire Anderson.

“She does really, really well as our hostess,” said Geisler.

Anderson described her character as “super nerdy, but she has a sweet side to her.”

Cecilia Redman will take to the stage as Mr. Mitchell M. Mahoney – the comfort counselor.

“When the kids are dinged off the stage, he comforts them with apple juice and hugs,” said Geisler.

There always has to be a twist to the story and that happens to Logan Stapp’s character, Chip Tolentino.

“He is a lead speller who is expected to do really well and gets out tragically,” said Geisler.

A know it all, William Barfee, played by Jonah Siebert should bring some laughter to the audience.

“The character Jonah plays is hilarious,” said Geisler. “You get to see him correct the vice principal and the hostess – often about the pronunciation of his name.”

A younger competitor, Logainne Schwartzandgruneierre played by Marisa Jepsen, Geisler said has been coached her whole life to do well at spelling bees.

Jayden Gardipee will play Olive Ostrovsky.

“That is one of the deep characters and she is doing really, really well,” said Geisler.

There is a smaller cast for the Southeast Valley high school’s fall musical this year.

“This is a very small musical for us,” said Geisler. “Usually, we have a cast of 60, sometimes 70. This one is about 25, which turns out to be pretty perfect considering everything we are up against this year.”

Regardless of a smaller cast, Geisler said she is excited they are able to have a musical this year.

“I think the kids have really needed this for the sense of normalcy,” she said. “They have had so many things cut back. Even if it is somewhat smaller and a little different than usual, it is still something we need to make the year feel cohesive.”

Anderson said the entire cast has been putting in a lot of long hours so far this fall.

“They’re the longest hours of my life but they go by so fast at the same time,” she said.

With the musical less than one week away, Anderson said the cast is really making everything come together.

“It’s crunch time for sure,” she said. “Now once everyone is off book is when the excitement really starts. You get movement and more improv from everybody. The characters really come to life when you put the books down. We have our books down and I am really excited.”

Anderson said this year’s musical isn’t your typical show.

“The musical is very different this year because we get to have audience volunteers join and it’s very cool,” she said. “It’s going to be a great time.”

Geisler said she is now in her 12th year of directing the musicals. She is assisted by accompanist Ileigh Headly and middle school band director, Danielle McKim.


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