ATP’s ‘Spelling Bee’ Full of Laughs

By Beacon Staff

How do you spell hilarious? Alpine Theater Project’s “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Last week, I was lucky enough to catch the opening night of Alpine’s latest musical performance. Set in a small-town American elementary school gymnasium, “Spelling Bee” is just that, the story of a spelling bee. But its characters –six overachieving misfits in the throes of puberty — are what really bring the show alive. That and the chuckle-inducing, and occasionally outright bawdy, definitions and sentences used for words in the bee. As a whole, the production is well cast, fast paced, imaginative and just plain fun.

Here’s some more information on the show from ATP:

Alpine Theatre Project (ATP) launches its first musical of the season with the regional premiere of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The multiple Tony Award-winning musical comedy with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin runs July 9 – 26 at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center in downtown Whitefish.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee chronicles the experience of six adolescent outsiders vying for the spelling bee championship of a lifetime. The show’s Tony-Award winning team has created the unlikeliest of hit musicals about the unlikeliest of heroes: a quirky yet charming cast of outsiders for whom a spelling bee is the one place where they can stand out and fit in at the same time.

“This musical is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in a long time,” says director, Luke Walrath, who recalls seeing the original Broadway production in 2005. “It’s one of those rare shows that combines deep belly laughs with tons of heart.”

This production of Spelling Bee has also caught the attention of the National Endowment for the Arts, which awarded Alpine Theatre Project with a grant to aid with the production.

“We are honored to have the assistance of the National Endowment for this production,” says Walrath. “It allows us to bring this incredibly sweet and hilarious musical to the Flathead Valley for the first time ever.”

Spelling Bee stars ATP Artistic Director, Betsi Morrison, as well as other returning company members like Jodi Kimura. Kimura will be going out on tour with the Broadway revival of South Pacific immediately following this production. The cast is rounded out with Nick Spear, Rebecca Spear, Mickey Fisher, Jarran Muse, Ryan Appleby, Charissa Bertels, and Ron DeStefano. Many of the actors performed in ATP’s hit production of The Full Monty.

The production’s set is being designed by Jo Winiarski, who was on the design team for the original Broadway production.

Founded by three Broadway veterans, David Ackroyd, Betsi Morrison and Luke Walrath, Alpine Theatre Project (ATP) has become one of the most respected professional theatres in the Northwest United States. Its Honorary Board of world-renowned artists includes Olympia Dukakis, Robert Goulet, John Lithgow, James Naughton, and Henry Winkler. ATP presents musicals, plays, and concerts throughout the year including regional and world premieres. Using imagination and creativity as its tools, ATP seeks to inspire its audience with transformative entertainment that moves the spirit, excites the imagination, challenges assumptions, and shifts perspectives.

Alpine Theatre Project presents the regional premiere of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee July 9 – 26 at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center. Shows run Tuesdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m. Patrons can call the ATP Box Office at (406) 862-SHOW or log on to www.alpinetheatreproject.org for tickets and information.

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