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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Auckland Theatre Company
Media Release

For immediate release

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee


The tension is palpable, the excitement is mounting and the heady scent of competition is in the air as six deliciously geeky, philologically industrious twelve-year-olds from across the county take part in what is undoubtedly one of the greatest events of their lives – THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE, on at SKYCITY Theatre from November 6.

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE is inspired by Spellbound, the hilarious documentary starring teen spelling geniuses competing in the US Spelling Bee Final.

A runaway hit when it first opened on Broadway, the musical has since won the Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for Best Book of a Musical, four Helpmann awards including Best Musical, and the Lucille Lortel award for Best Musical.

“Can you spell I-R-R-E-S-I-S-T-I-B-L-E? A riotously runny and entirely adorable new musical” New York Times

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE stars Jackie Clarke as the queen of the bee marshalling six compellingly geeky 12 year olds through the trials of spelling mania. Hilarious scenes ensue as the contestants cope with fanatical spelling parents, dastardly sabotage attempts, teenage crushes and puberty!

"Warm and fuzzy may be totally unfashionable, but this little Broadway musical about spelling is g-o-l-u-p-t-i-o-u-s (delicious…) …a hilarious evening of entertainment" The Melbourne Age

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As Principal Partner of the Auckland Theatre Company, New Zealand Post is pleased to support THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE season, said Chief Executive, John Allen.

“This entertaining take on the spelling bee culture is a proven audience pleaser, but for us there is an additional attraction behind the humour. That is its association with literacy, which is central to many of our community initiatives, including a variety of book and poetry awards aimed at developing literacy and writing talent in New Zealand.”

Charles Isherwood of the New York Times called THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE “irresistible and entirely lovable and riotously funny.” Terry Teachout in the Wall Street Journal called the show “the best in town - that rarity of rarities, a super-smart show that is also a bona fide crowd-pleaser.” David Rooney of Variety stated that, “this winning new musical is so generously warm-heated, only the most bitter misanthrope could resist its charms.” Michael Sommers of the Star-Ledger called it “a nifty musical gift,” and Linda Winer of Newsday deemed it “endearingly deranged.” Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press simply asked, “How do you spell h-i-t?”

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE plays at SKYCITY Theatre from 6 to 29 November. Tickets are available from TICKETEK or


Starring:Jackie Clarke with Madelein Sami, Jason Te Patu, Semu Filipo, Christina Cusiel, Kristian Lavercombe, Ester Stephens and Cameron Douglas,
Writer: William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin
Direction: Murray Lynch
Musical Director: Grant Winterburn
Designers: John Parker, Bryan Caldwell, Sacha Copland

SKYCITY Theatre, November 6 -29
Tuesday - Wednesday 6.30pm, Thursday - Saturday 8.00pm
Matinee Saturday November at 2.00pm
Sundays 4.00pm
Tickets: $25 - $54 (booking fees apply)


About the characters:

The sweet and loveable Rona Peretti (Jackie Clarke) is the moderator. She’s former Putnam County Spelling Bee Champ and number one realtor in the county.

Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Eryn Wilson) returns to the bee as Pronouncer after a five year hiatus brought about by an incident at the 20th Bee. He claims to be in a ‘much better place’ thanks to a high-fiber diet and Jungian analysis.

William Barfee (Semu Filipo) was one of last year’s finalists. He’s got a point to prove and a magical spelling foot. Now the only things standing between him and spelling glory is his peanut allergy and malfunctioning nostril that had him choking on the home straight last year.

Back to defend his title, Chip Tolentina (Cameron Douglas) has every badge for spelling a boy scout can earn. His biggest challenge will be keeping his mind on the words just as puberty hits.

The county final should be a cinch for Marcy Park (Esther Stephens) who placed 9th in last year’s nationals. She speaks six languages, is a member of all-American hockey, plays Chopin and Mozart on multiple instruments, sleeps only three hours a night and hides in the bathroom cabinet with dictionary. She may be a poster girl for over-achievers but she’s getting a bit tired of always winning.

The spelling bee presents Logainne Schartzandgrubenierre (Madeleinne Sami) with a perfect platform for promoting social causes. She just might have more of than an outside chance for taking the title because her over anxious, super proud and slightly insane gay spelling dads have their hearts set on their little girl winning the bee.

The second runner up in his district’s qualifying round Leaf Coneybear (Kristian Lavercombe) has been promoted to the finals after the winner and first runner up had a conflicting Bat Mitzvah to attend on the day. He’s easily distracted but the pressure of the final is sure to focus his mind.

Rookie Olive Ostrovsky (Christina Cusiel) successful debut in the world of competitive spelling was witnessed by her mother who is always present in spirit from the Ashram she lives on in India. She credits her early good form to befriending her dictionary at a very early age.


© Scoop Media

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