Musical ‘Spelling Bee’ by INNOVAtheatre takes Sorg stage Thursday, runs through weekend

Abby Brown plays Olive in INNOVAtheatre's "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" at the Sorg in Middletown Jan. 13-16, 2022. CONTRIBUTED
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Abby Brown plays Olive in INNOVAtheatre's "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" at the Sorg in Middletown Jan. 13-16, 2022. CONTRIBUTED

MIDDLETOWN — An eclectic group of sixth graders will soon arrive at the Sorg Opera House for INNOVAtheatre’s presentation of the “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

“It’s great to be back performing live theater again. We’re really looking forward to putting on a great show that people will enjoy. We hope they get immersed in the show and walk out talking about how wonderful it is,” said Nicholas Brown, the show’s director.

The musical comedy production will run Thurs., Jan. 13 through Sun., Jan. 16. Show times are at 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday, with two additional 3 p.m. matinee performances on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are reserved seating and may be purchased for $25 each online or at the door the day of the show, if available.

“I’ve been in the show, so I know it very well. It’s just a bucket list show. It’s so fun, engaging and it’s different every time you see it. I love to give my own spin on such a popular show, so people can see that and what my idea of it is,” Brown said.

In the show, participants in the “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” demonstrate that they’re eager to win for a variety of different reasons. Sweet and shy Olive, played by Abby Brown, brings only her best friend (the dictionary) with her to the bee, while bold and hyperallergic speller William Barfée (Samuel Horton) uses his “magic foot” to propel him to greatness. Meanwhile, the former champion Chip is struggling with his burgeoning puberty, and easily distracted Leaf is unconvinced that he’s smart enough to be a challenge.

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Samuel Horton plays William Barfée in INNOVAtheatre's "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" in Middletown Jan. 13-16, 2022. CONTRIBUTED

Samuel Horton plays William Barfée in INNOVAtheatre's "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" in Middletown Jan. 13-16, 2022. CONTRIBUTED
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Samuel Horton plays William Barfée in INNOVAtheatre's "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" in Middletown Jan. 13-16, 2022. CONTRIBUTED

“We’ve been rehearsing since the middle of October. We have a talented cast, so rehearsals have been very fun and productive. Right, now, we’re ready to go for tech week, (which started on Sunday). We put a lot of work in. The show looks great, and everyone sounds fantastic. It’s been nice to have such a learned cast made up of people who know what they’re doing,” Brown said.

The cast also includes Bri Landrum (as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre,) Chase Engel (as Leaf Coneybear), Liz Lindon (as Marcy Park), Jacob Nichols (as Charlito “Chip” Tolentino), Clare Hingsbergen (as Rona Lisa Peretti), Jason S. Lakes (as Vice Principal Douglas Panch) and Michaela Cramer (as Mitch Mahoney). Several of the characters in the cast play multiple roles in the show.

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Jason Lakes plays the vice principal in INNOVAtheatre's "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" in Middletown Jan. 13-16, 2022. CONTRIBUTED

Jason Lakes plays the vice principal in INNOVAtheatre's "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" in Middletown Jan. 13-16, 2022. CONTRIBUTED
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Jason Lakes plays the vice principal in INNOVAtheatre's "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" in Middletown Jan. 13-16, 2022. CONTRIBUTED

Immersing the audience through hilarious, touching and catchy songs, each speller reveals his or her hopes, struggles, and passions as they make their way through the competition. Plus, there’s a chance for audience participation, and the actors come out in the aisles, so attendees will get to see them in an up-close and intimate setting.

“The cast is filled with wonderful singers. This show really focuses on solo talent, especially with the character-specific songs. There’s a lot of heavy-vocal performance songs. ... then, in addition to that, they’re all very strong character actors. This is one of the biggest character-driven shows out there,” Brown said.

The show is about a spelling bee, and the unique twist in the show is that the kids in the show are played by adults. So, there are some adult themes and coarse language.

“The unique spin that we put on the show is that when you enter the show, the idea is not that you’re going to watch a show of the spelling bee on the stage, but that you’re actually going to come into the spelling bee and be the audience of a spelling bee. That’s one of the big things I advocated for,” Brown said.

Christopher Koonce serves as the assistant director. The show is produced by Kat Brown and Abby James with choreography by Anna Rae Brown, vocal direction by Adelyn Rae Helms and orchestral direction by Judy Mansky.

INNOVAtheatre has made its home at the Sorg, where all the group’s live performances are held. The show is made possible in part by generous grants from the Middletown Community Foundation and First Financial Bank.

HOW TO GO

What: “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

When: Thurs., Jan. 13 through Sun., Jan. 16. Show times are at 8 p.m. on Thurs., Fri., and Sat., with additional 3 p.m. matinee performances on Sat. and Sun.

Where: Sorg Opera House, 63 S. Main Street, Middletown

Admission: Reserved seating tickets are $25 in advance. More information is available at www.sorgoperahouse.org. To purchase tickets, visit www.cincyticket.com. Tickets will also be available at the door for each performance, if the show is not sold out. Note: The show contains PG-13 adult humor. Masks are optional; the theater is operating at full capacity.

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