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PEMCo smells and spells success

Carrie Turek | Thursday, September 29, 2011


PEMCo not only knows how to smell success — they can spell it too. With this weekend’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” PEMCo promises to captivate audiences with quirky characters, catchy songs and tons of tongue-in-cheek humor. 

Director and choreographer senior Clare Cooney, explains why she, along with producers, seniors Will Docimo and Kevin De La Montaigne, chose “Putnam” last May.

“It’s got everything you want from a musical comedy,” Cooney said. “Fun dance numbers, beautiful music, dynamic characters and most importantly, the most hilarious script I have ever read. ‘Putnam’ offers a strong ensemble cast and a daring, dry sense of humor that I knew PEMCo could make come alive.”

With a cast of only nine and a crew of only 11, “Putnam” has to work hard to ensure both the musical and acting strength of each performer. Cooney and music director, fifth year Mark Wurzelbacher, do this flawlessly. Instrumentation, vocals and choreography mesh perfectly in this nuanced and larger-than-life comedy.  “Putnam” captures the insecurities, fears and innocent dreams of six young spelling-bee hopefuls as they ready themselves to compete in Putnam County. The spellers grow with the show, finding friendship and confidence through comedic social interactions and hilarious spelling bee experiences.

As part of a small cast, actors must work rigorously to perfect their solos and lines, practicing about three to four hours each day, five days per week. “Putnam” has been rehearsing for only a short four weeks, following auditions that were held Aug. 25 and 26. Cooney said the small cast size, coupled with the intense rehearsal schedule makes for strong relationships and a stronger show.

“When coming to rehearsal becomes a joy, not a chore, that’s when you know you’ve got the makings of a wonderful show.” Cooney said.

The success of “Putnam” was ensured from the beginning. Sophomore Natalie Perez (Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre) said everyone knew the songs and their harmonies before the first read-through. The actors’ investment in their characters and the music is evident in every line they deliver and every action they take. 

When asked whether or not she relates to her character, senior Kristy Cloetingh (Olive Ostrovsky) laughed good-naturedly.

“I am an English major.” Cloetingh said. “Olive is a nerd. Absolutely.”

Senior Sean Leyes (Chip Tolentino) described the characters as being “caricatures, but relatable at the same time.”

With a full array of childhood props, including toy soldiers, My Little Ponies, puppets and juice boxes, audience members are transported back to their primary years. Emotions range from enthusiastic ambition to near hopelessness, all perfectly conveyed by invested actors, a beautiful set, well-executed cues and endearing props. 

Audience members can look forward to being part of the Bee, as well. The experience of being a part of the show is incredible and unforgettable. Guest spellers are privy to the characters’ quirks up close. They partake, firsthand, in the Notre Dame jokes, hilarious words and off-color definitions.  Show-goers who wish to volunteer should be sure to get to the show a bit early in order to enter the drawing. Four audience volunteers will be chosen per show.

Tickets are available for purchase ($6 student, $8 non-student) at the LaFortune Box Office and at the door. Performances will take place in Washington Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 1 at 4:30 p.m.