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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the New Britain Rep

The "kids" are spelling again

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Repertory Theatre in New Britain features a cast that worked together in Goshen in 2010 and while they did so seamlessly, it felt like audience members had been genuinely invited to join their class. This beautiful little theatre in the middle of a residential section of New Britain was easy to find and less than 40 minutes from Naugatuck. The director Dan Checovetes acted as a consultant when the senior members of Naugatuck Teen Theater presented of this musical last summer and he also directed almost all of these cast members as the Goshen Players.

This was a wonderful cast. Alyssa Fontana (a wonderful Cathy in ) and her powerhouse voice played Rona Lisa and Matt Cornish had the vocal chops to play a convincing bad boy named Mitch as well as two other roles. Frank Beaudry was a fine upstanding Chip the Boy Scout and Jimmy Donohue was a very funny William Morris Barfee. Julie Hart was the “new” member of this cast, but I would have been hard-pressed to pick her out as such.  Julianne Daly was convincing as the classic overachiever in the Catholic school uniform. Katie Brunetto, who I last saw as Amber in , was even more impressive as Logainne from my front row seat.

Alec Varcas, costumed in a Sponge Bob cape, a tie-died shirt and boxers marked with his name, took the role of Leaf Coneybear to a new level; he must have been exhausted after playing this hyperactive young boy. A gifted choreographer, this is a young man to watch. John Ozerhoski as Vice Principal Panch had the audience laughing from the minute he entered the stage. His “radio voice” coupled with his excellent comic timing was a treat to watch. The nine actors sounded like more when they sang together in beautiful harmony and the three “senior” members played double and triple roles that required quick changes. Johnny O even provided explanations upon his return and managed to throw in a reference to a football game being played during this performance and Glee. The two dads of Logainne, played by Ozerhoski and Cornish, were by far the most hysterical.

The pit orchestra (which actually sat on stage) was led by the talented AJ Bunel, whose most recent credits include Hairspray and . The wonderful costumes, by Kristen A. Rowe, added to the childlike quality of the stage. The set and props were created by a committee and featured a simple riser, some lockers and a table for the judges.

As is tradition, three members of the audience were called upon to join the cast as audience spellers. Since this audience contained several celebrities, it was inevitable some of them would be chosen. Naugatuck Patch’s own Tim Phillips attended this performance and his wife was one of the spellers, as was a member of Mr. Varcas’ family. All three added to the laughs, and I can assure you that we laughed during almost the entire performance. This show is definitely worth the trip to New Britain and it runs January 20-22 and January 27-28 all at 8 p.m. except for the matinee on January 22 at 2 p.m. Regular tickets are $25, Seniors and Students are $22. 

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