Can you spell m-u-s-i-c-a-l? Cherry Hill East High School will be showing “The 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee” two weekends this March at the Cherry Hill East High School auditorium. The musical follows six 12-year-old competitors as they compete in a spelling bee. It is not, however, an actual spelling bee.
“As the event goes on, they learn a lot about growing up and their lives, so it’s a classic coming of age story,” said Peter Gambino, drama director of the production. “It’s very poignant and not necessarily what you expect from a musical–there aren’t giant show-stopping numbers, (but) there is a plot that has development and character change and meaning in a satisfying way.”
While last years’ performances exposed students to new forms of media through the fall radio show Clue and the filming of “Little Shop of Horrors,” students were excited to be able to perform live and to be getting back to normal.
“Earlier in the year we did Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and we used clear masks,” said Charlie Bove, a senior who plays contestant Chip Tolentino for the White Cast. “It was really great because we were able to actually act with our full faces and have a normal theater experience.”
As in the past, the show features two casts: the White cast and the Red cast. This year, the students will be able to perform without a mask after the mask mandate is lifted on March 7. On Feb. 28, The Sun got to meet some of the ‘contestants’. Both Bove and sophomore Everett Garcia, who plays Chip in the Red cast, describe their character as being a bit arrogant since he won the 24th annual spelling bee.
“He comes in thinking he’s going to win and he doesn’t focus as much as the other contestants do and inevitably because he’s unfocused and he’s thinking ‘oh I’m going to just cruise by,’ he makes a mistake on a word,” Bove said.
Senior Hailee Connors on the White cast and junior Miranda Rosenbaum on the Red Cast play Olive Ostrovsky, a 12-year-old contestant who genuinely enjoys spelling and learning about the words. They note that her parents are not around, since her mom moved to India for a spiritual quest, and Olive finds an escape through spelling.
“She just loves spelling and learning everything about words,” Connors said.
Rosenbaum noted that despite initial appearances, Olive has a lot of emotional depth to her, as she struggles with depression and anxiety, and feeling that nobody loves or supports her. Though the show touches on a range of meaningful themes, it is also meant to be a comedy.
“I hope people can see the show and have a laugh, just get their mind off of whatever troubles they’re going through and realize there was a time (when) they were kids like these,” Rosenbaum said.
The White cast will perform on March 12 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. and on the 20 at 2 p.m. The Red cast will perform on March 11 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. and on March 13 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are available for purchase at https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/60753. They cost $15 for adults and $12 for students. The box office will open one and a half hours before each performance and the website will shut down during this time to avoid duplicate sales.