This Fringe, Room 29 has chosen to bring The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee to the festival, and has been greeted with colossal success; a predominantly sold-out run is precisely what this slick and delightful show deserves.
As a musical, it is easy to see why Spelling Bee is a cult favourite, with its fantastic songs and hilarious characters; it uses the comedy of fully-grown adults stumbling around as children to capture its audience, and this in particular is something that Room 29 did so very well. Special mention must go to Michael Pellman, as Leaf Coneybear, and Olivia Attwool-Keith as Logaine SchwartzandGrubenierre, in this area; they were suitably adorable, with Pellman’s odd quirks and Attwool-Keith’s ambitious but earnest characterisation winning the audience over. Ross Hunter also succeeded in creating a hilariously creepy William Barfée.
The voices of the cast are wonderfully sound, adapting well to the score and to the challenging songs this musical includes. Pandemonium stood out as a particularly exciting number. Still, vocally it is Charlotte Jones in this production as Rona Lisa Piretti, the moderator of the Spelling Bee, that shines; in a group of perfectly strong singers, she still excels, and her solos in The I Love You Song are spell-binding.
Whilst the choreography was minimal, and often slightly cramped because of the space, it was acceptable due to the nature of the musical. It would have perhaps been good to see more songs such as Magic Feet being used to showcase some more complex choreography. It didn’t hinder the production too much, however, as the musical lends itself to clutter and clumsiness. The characterisation is far more important than choreography this musical, and that was certainly showcased.