Having a spell: Cresson Lake Playhouse staging funny, edgy musical

When asked what the Tony Award-winning musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Bee” is about, Kevin Bean just laughed.

“There’s an easy answer and a profound answer,” chuckled Bean, a Johnstown native who is directing Cresson Lake Playhouse’s upcoming production of the show. “Ultimately, it’s about a spelling bee; pretty simple. But more than that, it’s about these kids coming from all different backgrounds, coming together for this spelling bee, forming relationships with each other. We get to see their struggles and their triumphs as they compete.”

The troupe will stage “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Oct. 10 and Oct. 15 through 17 and 2 p.m. Oct. 11 at CLP’s theater in Loretto.

Tickets for the performances cost $10, $14 or $18 and are available online at www.cressonlake.com or by calling 472-4333. The show does contain some adult humor and content.

In addition to directing the show, Bean will play William Barfee, one of the children competing in the spelling bee. The cast also consists of Josh Duman, Gabbi Lechak, Stephanie Beyer Reese, Mike Shank, Janelle and James Parker, Ben Berkebile, Jaden Parker and Leah Lyons.

“They’re fantastic, an incredibly talented cast,” Bean said. “The cast is phenomenal. There are some new faces. It’s always great to bring in new people. It’s great for the audience to experience new faces and voices.

“The entire (cast and crew) is a dream team. It’s part of what drew me to the show.”

Reese said the musical is “very funny and a little edgy.”

“It just has so many layers,” said Reese, an Ebensburg native who plays Rona Lisa Peretti, a real estate agent who hosts the spelling bee each year, due to the fact that she won it herself as a 9-year-old. “It’s the kind of show that keeps you on your toes.

“It’s an edgier show, and the audience can expect to laugh a lot, but they can also expect to shed a tear. There were a couple of moments that I literally cried during rehearsals.

“People can connect to the musical, especially if they have children.”

Duman, also of Ebensburg, portrays Chip Tolentino, another child in the spelling bee. He originally saw “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” when he was in college at Slippery Rock University, and he remembers “loving it.”

“It’s a lot of fun, and it has the humor” he said. “It is the kind of role I wanted to go for.”

The audience “can expect to experience a wide range of emotions,” he said. “There’s a lot of laughing and some really sentimental moments. It has moments every audience member can connect to, in one way or another.”

“It is a very funny show,” Bean said. “There’s laughter, catchy music, the unexpected, and there will be some moments in the show where you can’t believe we took it there.”

Mirror Staff Writer Cory Dobrowolsky can be reached at 946-7428.