With Laughter and Song, “Spelling Bee” Reveals Pressures of Academic Stress


Photo courtesy of Wendy Pineda-Gonzalez.

The BHS Drama Club performed The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee on April 25, 26 and 27 in the community room.

Spelling Bee told the story of a rag-tag group of ambitious kids determined to succeed no matter what it took.

The spellers, Olive Ostrovsky (Senior Rachel Halpert), Marcy Park (Sophomore Michelle Ordillas), Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (Sophomore Sam Shaffer), William Barfee (Sophomore Enrique Caraballo), Leaf Coneybear (Senior Kyle Cohen) and Chip Tolentino (Freshman Neil Kelly) each had a backstory revealed through a combination of songs and flashbacks.

The play followed each competitor’s struggles through the stresses of adolescence, family life and pressure to win.

BHS students might relate.

Every character in Spelling Bee provided his or her own unique voice, creating a great balance between comedy and drama.

The production incorporated audience participation, making a very entertaining show. Teachers, students and other audience members were chosen to join the cast on stage. One female student in each show was chosen to be the object of Chip Tolentino’s affections as well. That must have been awkward. It was funny to watch, though.

Some especially hilarious characters included Leaf Coneybear, William Barfee and Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, all of whom played quirky characters, each one uniquely geeky.

Probably the funniest (and most unsettling) part of the show was the song “My Unfortunate Erection” in which one student scarred us all for life by singing about his mishap on stage.

The show was not only funny, but it also had some more serious emotional aspects. Olive Ostrovsky’s storyline dealt with her struggle with absent parents, and Marcy Park’s backstory dealt with extreme pressure to be perfect.

My personal favorite character was Leaf Coneybear, the enthusiastic third-runner-up of his regional competition who made it to finals based on luck. What Coneybear lacked in brains, he definitely made up in heart, teaching the lesson that it’s not all about winning.

In addition to the six spellers, there were also three adult characters in the show. Junior Erin Evans played the outgoing and quirky host Rona Lisa Perretti, Sophomore Jasmine Howard played the ex-delinquent Michelle Mahoney doing her community service, and Drama Club director Pierre Brault played Vice Principal Patch, the unstable judge of the competition.

The adults, like the spellers, contributed significantly to the hilarity of the show. Patch and Perretti both provided jocular commentary. The sentences that Brault’s character provided to exemplify each word never ceased to make the crowd howl with laughter. In fact, very few lines in the play didn’t provoke laughter.

BHS’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee definitely didn’t disappoint. It was a vast change in pace from the Drama Club’s last play The Great Gatsby, but it was equally entertaining. I can’t wait to see what these talented kids put out next year. I don’t doubt it will be phenomenal.