Union, Lambuth thespians will perform Tony Award-winning musical

A mixed group of Union and Lambuth students rehearse for the play '25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee' with their pianist. The play will be performed at Lambuth University in Jackson, April 7–9, at 7 p.m. | Photo by Victoria Stargel

By Katlyn Moncada

Four students from Union University are traveling across town to partner with a troupe for the Tony Award-winning musical comedy, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” to be performed by the Lambuth University Theatre in Jackson, April 7–9, at 7 p.m.

The musical features six young people who discover winning is not the most important thing in their journey toward the spelling bee championship.

The four Union students are participating with the Lambuth drama group after Kevin Anderton, assistant professor of communications and theater at Lambuth, guest-directed “The Winter’s Tale” at Union.

The most interesting aspect of the quirky musical is that there is a portion involving heavy audience participation. Before each live performance, four selected members of the audience will join the cast as guest spellers in the contest.

New participants in each show means new and unexpected surprises. The material will change for every performance and therefore the cast will have to improvise, or make up dialogue.

Jillian Barron, sophomore theater and French double major at Union, plays Rona Lisa Peretti, the hostess of the spelling bee. With the addition of audience participation, Barron works hard as the hostess to be distinctive in her improvisational dialogue each night. However, the improv is not the most difficult part of her role in the musical.

“The songs are very challenging,” Barron said. “They are fast-paced and the rhythm is not normal.”

Another Union student, Heather Nicholas, junior theater major, plays the over-achieving, snobby Marcy who speaks six languages and has previously participated in the spelling bee nationals.

Nicholas said she is enjoying working under the direction of Anderton for her seventh time.

“He’s pretty much been my mentor since the first time I really started doing theater,” Nicholas said. “At this point he is one of the people I admire the most.”

Nicholas’s favorite part of the musical is the audience participation. She said people should attend because of the show’s comedy.

“The cast is full of strong singers and actors,” Nicholas said. “The music is high-energy, and every single character brings a new, fun element to the show.”

With three nights of performances scheduled, each show should reveal new and exciting events for the audience participants. Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for other attendees.

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