After having a meltdown on stage, Principal Panch (Jon Frenz) is carried off stage by “Comfort Counselor Mitch Mahoney” played by Jason Aaron while love interest Rona, (Angelina Hill) watches in horror. The scene is from a dress rehearsal of Waterford Union High School’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnman County Spelling Bee.” The play runs through the weekend. (Photo by Maureen Vander Zanden)

Editor’s note: Out of concern over the potential spread of the coronavirus, Waterford Union High School has cancelled Saturday’s and Sunday’s scheduled performances of “The 25th Annual  Putnman County Spelling Bee.” People who have already purchased tickets for the Saturday and Sunday shows may use them to see the Friday night performance or return them to the Athletic/Activities Office before or after classes for a refund, according to Director Leigh Birmingham.

Waterford High presents its take on ‘Spelling Bee’

Maureen Vander Sanden


H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S is how you spell Waterford Union High School’s spring musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

The show, which debuts Thursday night at the school auditorium, continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. with a matinee scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday.

“This is a show that stays with you – the message the music and the performances,” said co-director Leigh Birmingham.

The play is a musical comedy that centers on a fictional spelling bee set in Putnam Valley Middle School. Six quirky adolescents compete in the bee, run by three equally quirky grown-ups. The 2005 Broadway production earned good reviews and box-office success as well as two Tony Awards.

This is the 31st production that Birmingham has led at the high school, and the fourth she and Derek Machan have collaborated on.

“This will be the second year that (he) and I have chosen a smaller cast musical,” she said, explaining that they alternate years with small, then large casts. “This show in particular was one we had discussed several years ago. It is ensemble-based and so each character has their time to shine. It is also unbelievably hilarious!”

Audience interaction is another component that keeps the entertainment rolling, according to the director, who revealed that “a few lucky volunteers will be pulled up onstage” to take part in the bee alongside the six young characters. Audiences can also expect to learn a few new words, as well as “share in quite a bit of laughter.”

“The audience should not come in with any preconceived ideas about musicals or spelling bees. This show simply surprises,” she said.

Being ensemble-based, there are no lead roles, and each actor has a standout performance. She clarified that each character is played by two students whose roles are primary and secondary, not to be confused with leads and understudies.

“The show has two casts that are mixed together over four performances so every night is a different experience for the actors and the audience,” she explained, “which works out wonderfully as it gives multiple students the chance to take the stage.”

To read the entire story, including the cast list, see the March 13 edition of the Waterford Post.

If you go…

What: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a musical comedy

Where: Waterford Union High School Auditorium, 100 Field Drive (Door No. 1, enter off Water Street)

When: Friday, March 12 and Saturday, March 13, at 7 p.m.; Sunday, March 15, 2 p.m.

Cost: Tickets are $10 for adults $8 for students and seniors, free of charge for children 5 and younger

More info: Tickets are for sale at the Main Office or at the doors. Call (262) 534-3189