Alden-Conger’s spring musical to bring humor and fun

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2023

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A spelling bee gets competitive in Alden-Conger School’s spring musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” which arrives on stage Thursday.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is about a group of six middle-schoolers who have won their district bees and are now advancing to the county-wide bee,” Ada Theusch, director for the show, wrote in an email.

Written by Rachel Sheinkin, the musical opened in 2005 and won Tony awards for Best Book and Best Featured Actor.

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Theusch described the show as funny and quirky, and even had “a little” audience participation, something she said was unique.

This will be Theusch’s 14th musical, and her works include “Oklahoma,” “The Sound of Music,” “Annie,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Shrek the Musical.”

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” tells the story of a fictional middle school spelling bee with six quirky adolescents competing in front of three adults.

“Each character is so unique, ranging from a girl having two helicopter moms, to a star athlete Boy Scout, to a droopy character with an excessive mucous membrane disorder,” Theusch said. “Their quirks make them fun, interesting and lovable. Through the fun of the competition, the characters grow as individuals and find friendship and acceptance in unpredictable places.”

In choosing this play, she wanted students to enjoy the eccentricities of the play, and said with a strong core group of actors and singers, the show did a good job of highlighting their strengths and creativity.

“There are lots of quirky one-liners in this show, and they all have their favorites,” she said.

Two characters are also asked to introduce audience volunteers.

In doing this, Theusch has learned to have faith in her students.

“They all have good intentions and want to be successful,” she said. “If they do not get it the first or second time, I need to be patient; they will shine in their own time.”

Senior Ava Diekmann plays Carla Mom, the mother of Logainne “Schwartzy” Schwartzandgrubenierre, and this will be her final musical.

“Unlike my character’s wife, Dani Mom, my character is very overbearing and demanding of Logainne. She expects nothing but the best from her and pressures her to win the spelling bee.”

Her favorite part of the whole experience was spending time with her fellow seniors.

“We are all extremely close and they have always been the ones auditioning,” she said. “Being able to do something with them and have a last hurrah is really amazing.”

Diekmann has either performed or worked on six other shows.

Junior Jackson Frank will act as Douglas Panch, who serves as a judge and the bee’s pronouncer.

“Essentially, he helps the contestants with certain aspects of the words he gives, like the definition and language of origin,” he said.

Frank decided to audition because he wanted to see what a spelling musical would look like.

But his favorite part about it is that he’ll get to choose the words to spell.

“It gives the role some nice flexibility,” he said.

Like Diekmann, Frank has also been in six other shows, including “An Inconvenient Corpse,” “Shrek the Musical” and “Strange Boarders.”

Charlotte Sutter, an eighth-grader at Alden-Conger, plays Artichoke Coneybear, one of Leaf Coneybear’s many siblings. Sutter has been in a number of shows, including “Seussical,” “The Big Bad Musical,” “Dirty Laundry,” “Shrek the Musical” and “An Inconvenient Corpse.”

She said she did them because her friends liked them, and that common interest allowed her to spend time with them.

Theusch hopes the audience will enjoy the eccentric, genuine characters found through the show.

“Although it is a comedy, at its core, the show reflects the dreams and aspirations of most students — the drive for success, approval from parents and true friendship and connection,” she said.

Auditions were held in December, with rehearsals four days per week in January.

In total, 35 students from sixth through 12th grades make up the cast. Tara Roberts will serve as assistant director.

“She does a phenomenal job of keeping things running smoothly, helping with scheduling, designing shirts and the list goes on,” Theusch said.

Kayla Roberts is the choreographer.

“The students enjoy her and respond well to her ideas,” Theusch said.

Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available at the school doors. Cost is $6 for adults, $4 for students and seniors.

Bee Participants:
Chip Tolentino: Noah Johnson
Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre: Maggie Evans
Leaf Coneybear: Lexi Guenther
Wilma Barfée: Carlie Loock
Marcy Park: Emmie Jacobs
Olive Ostrovsky: Danni Betts

Rona Lisa Peretti: Kate Greenfield
Vice Principal Douglas Panch: Jackson Frank
Michelle Mahoney: Veronika Nielsen
Jesus: Aubrie Jacobs
Carla Mom: Ava Diekmann
Dani Mom: Kyra Bjornstad
Olive’s mom: Isabel Sutter
Olive’s dad: Nathan Jones
Leaf’s mom: Hailey Bjornstad,
Leaf’s dad: Cael Boldt
Leaf’s siblings: Danika Diekmannn (sister), Becca Ahnemann (Brook), Bella Guenther (Marigold), Bryce Green (Paul), Aubrie Jacobs (Pinecone), Chayce Lutteke (Raisin), Allie Wilder (Acorn), Adrianne Wilder (Agate), Charlotte Sutter (Artichoke), Chaya Sorenson (Chickpea), Cortney Schmidt (Blossom), Maura McParland (Hazelnut)

Ensemble: Hailey Bjornstad, Cael Boldt, Danika Diekmann, Becca Ahnemann, Bella Guenther, Bryce Green, Aubrie Jacobs, Chayce Lutteke, Allie Wilder, Adrianne Wilder, Charlotte Sutter, Chaya Sorenson, Cortney Schmidt, Maura McParland, Aubrie Jacobs, Ava Diekmann, Kyra Bjornstad, Isabel Sutter, Nathan Johnson