The cast rehearse a song from “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” which opens Feb. 25 at Beaumont Community Players. Photos by Andy Coughlan

‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ opens Feb. 25

February will see hardened competitors test their skills, where the best of the best battle to see who will take home the coveted trophy.

No, I’m not talking about the Super Bowl, it’s “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” which opens Feb. 25 at Beaumont Community Players.

Director John Manfredi said BCP had a simple reason to choose the musical — “Because we think it’s hilarious,” he said. “Our talent pool is well suited for it.”

The show centers around the eponymous middle-school competition, with the twist that the kids are played by adults. Manfredi said the cast has had fun tapping into their memories, remembering how wild and free and unencumbered they were as children. However, it also deals with the stresses and strains of that age group, he said.

“The show is not without social commentary,” Manfredi said. “It does speak to the pressure that we put on kids, and it does speak to dysfunctional families and things like that.”

The challenge of doing a show like “Putnam” is not to be caricatures, to give true portrayals, when it would be easier to go over the top, Manfredi said.

“(We want) to be honest in our representation of middle school kids,” he said.

Brandon Greer, left, Carrie Wilson and Andy McCall rehearse “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Brandon Greer plays William Barfee. He said that as much as it is a fun show, it is also an indictment of the American school system.

“You could call this, ‘Children That Are Stressed Out: The Musical,’ because it’s about a bunch of kids that are in their awkward stage,” he said. “(It’s) talking about how stressed out kids are and how they’re propelled to succeed in these magnificent ways. (It’s) more than they can handle. And some are just told they’re not smart, and they can’t do it.”

“Putnam” premiered off-Broadway in 2005 before switching to Broadway. The music and lyrics are by William Finn, with Rachel Sheinkin’s book earning a Tony award.

At 22, Mattie Bergeron is the youngest cast member, but she is a theater veteran. She has been involved at BCP since she was eight and is director of the summer Kidmunity program. Her character, Marcy Park, is an overachiever, meaning Bergeron has to sing, dance and do tricks.

“The stamina while dancing and singing is something that is challenging,” she said.

The cast rehearse a song from “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” 

Former cruise ship actor and choreographer Pamela Rainey Jackson plays Rona Lisa Peretti, for whom the contest is maybe a little too important.

“(I play) a former winner of the spelling bee reliving my youth every year,” Rainey Jackson said. “So, I’m constantly kind of reminiscing about when I won and it’s kind of my little world.”

As well as the six kids and three adult characters, the show features some audience interaction, which is crucial to the play, Manfredi said.

“We take that very seriously, which is another one of the things that we thought was super fun about it,” he said. “We’ve had success with the little audience participation we’ve done on our shows and our audiences like it.”

Manfredi said that although the musical is about children, it’s not a kid’s show. There’s plenty of adult humor in it and some swearing, and Manfredi said he would classify it as PG-13.

“It doesn’t make any proclamations (and) it doesn’t take a side necessarily, but it brings up some super issues, some relevant issues — always with humor, though,” he said.

Showtimes for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” are Feb. 25, 26, March 4, 5, 10, 11, 12 at 7:30 p.m., and March 5 at 2 p.m.

BCP is located at 4155 Laurel Ave. in Beaumont. For tickets, visit

This story originally ran in the Feb. 18 Art of Living section of The Beaumont Enterprise.

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