Monday, 2 June 2008

Broadway Across Canada - Putnam County Spelling Bee

The Resident Fan Boy and I decided to splurge and purchase season tickets for the whole family this year for Broadway Across Canada (evidently the Canadian subsidiary of Broadway Across America). This has been the first year I've even been remotely interested in the offerings. I'm particularly looking forward to Spamalot in the fall, and Wicked may be just the ticket to ease the heartbreak of having to return to Ottawa after six weeks in Victoria this summer. The first show was The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and in a way, this was the kicker. Younger daughter loves spelling bees. There was a spelling bee in the Peanuts movie A Boy Named Charlie Brown, and she astonished her godmother by insisting on coming along to Spellbound at the University of Victoria's Cinecenta when she was seven.

In preparation for the show, I ordered the original cast soundtrack, and played it during dinner. It sounded pretty pedestrian to me, so when we headed off yesterday in the rain to catch the bus, my expectations weren't high. We have a loge for the matinée showing, another splurge, but the privacy is easier on us and second daughter who then has a totally unobstructed view of the stage. We were uneasy when the National Arts Centre ushers tried to encourage us to take seats in the orchestra section, saying there were "sound problems". The Resident Fan Boy and elder daughter were all for heading down, but I said, dammit, we have loge seating, far forward --- how bad could the sound be?

The answer turned out to be: not a problem at all. We could see from our vantage point that the Southam Hall theatre was disappointingly sparse, presumably because this show hasn't had quite the same buzz as the really big Broadway productions. But you know, what the soundtrack CD didn't convey was how very funny this show is. Part of the hilarity comes from the inclusion of four ringers amongst the spellers. I'm not sure if they were chosen from the audience beforehand, but they didn't appear to be actors, although all of them were reasonably attractive, seemed quite comfortable on the stage, and took the jokes at their expense ("She won her local bee by spelling her own name.") without a boggle.

The actors themselves were your usual frightingly talented musical performers, able to sing, dance, act, and improvise. And we heard everything quite clearly. I saw elder daughter laughing easily throughout and younger daughter held up her two favourite puppets so they could see, and told me afterwards, "My favourite bit was the stars." Not quite sure what she meant by that. I'll have to ask her.


Vanessa said...

How delightful, to have Broadway so near you!

My last musical was Les Mis. Knew all the songs by heart (even had the cassette tape of it as a little girl, when such media were still in existence!) and I had read the book.

If it should come to a theater near you, don't fail to watch "I Love You, You're Perfect - Now Change!" Hilarity, I attest! :-)

Rob said...

I second Vanessa'a enthusiasm for I Love You etc. And I'll look out for Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Persephone said...

I've heard of ILYYPNC, but mainly as a fundraisers for law societies. Go figure. I take it that it's relatively easy to stage? With two recommendations, I will stand on guard for it.

Rob said...

I saw it in the Edinburgh Fringe festival a couple of years ago. It needs two men, two women, a violinist and a pianist, and not too much by way of props.

See for example here or here for my two personal favourites.

Rob said...

Though this scene is probably the reason it gets used for law society fundraisers,