Review: 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee' at Newington Children's Theatre Company

Nancy Sasso Janis

  • OnStage Connecticut Critic

The Newington Children’s Theatre Company presented ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ this weekend. Two complete casts were directed by Claire Van Cott, Andy Catanese served as musical director, and Paula Calandra worked with the teens on choreography. I was able to catch the performance by the Catterjunes Cast on Saturday evening in their intimate theatre in a bustling industrial park in Newington, CT. 

‘Spelling Bee’ was conceived by Rebecca Feldman, with a book by Rachel Sheinkin and music and lyrics by WIlliam Finn. This production featured a simple set designed by the director and dressed by a committee. The five-piece pit was conducted by Mr. Catanese and sounded great in this space.

The Catterjunes were a group of talented teens that really worked well together to tell the story of the young spellers competing at the mythical bee. Eddie Vitcavage, a UCONN student, was a stellar William Barfee; whether he was using his magic foot or not, he was always in character. Allison Madrazo was the perfect package as Logainne and never dropped her lisp. Kenny Bell had such an amazing singing voice that made his performance as Boy Scout Chip Tolentino extra special. 

Rachel Huff gave a very (up)tight performance in the role of Catholic school girl Marcy Park. I have never seen this character spell her words so quickly and it worked nicely. Michael Luszczak was superb as the spacy Leaf Coneybear and Jesus. Eddie Cruz was a standout as “comfort counselor” Mitch Mahoney. 

The role of Olive Ostrovsky was played to perfection by Katie Stango. Her version of “My Friend, the Dictionary” was lovely and her part in “The I Love You Song” was tear-jerking. It was a treat to watch this young actress perform seated next to her proud parents Melissa and Chuck Stango.

The adults were well-played in this cast by Emily Gray as Rona Lisa Peretti and Jillian Forauer as Vice-Principal Doug Patch. Both played older with aplomb. 

The other NCTC cast, who performed under the label of Pakapoo Cast, included Antonio LaRosa, Molly Menner, Olivia Ciaffaglione, Patrick Callahan, Inga Smith, Matty Fammartino, Bella Boutin, Emily Flynn and Chris Rowe. 

The show was presented with an intermission, after which Chip threw candy to the crowd. The invited spellers did a good job of keeping up and the final one standing, one Emily Sargent, proved to be a good speller as well. The audience was packed with family and friends and they could not have been more supportive. This show was one of four that NCTC will present this summer; ‘Spelling Bee’ features the oldest students in the program. Congratulations to the teens and the adults who worked with them on this great show.  

NCTC Performing Arts Theatre provides quality entertainment and hands-on educational programs in the performing arts to children and young adults from preschool through college. Home to Newington Children's Theatre Company, NCTC is Connecticut's oldest operating children's theatre.