Spelling Bee spells F-U-N for Ladysmith Secondary School actors

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is sure to spell fun when LSS students bring this musical comedy to their stage

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is sure to spell fun when Ladysmith Secondary School students bring this Tony Award-winning musical comedy to their stage later this week.

In The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which begins Thursday, May 1, six “young people in the throes of puberty,” as the musical’s website describes them, vie for the spelling championship of a lifetime.

“There is also audience participation, so that will make use of our improvisational skills, which is one of the reasons we chose the play,” said drama teacher Bill Taylor.

Approximately 25 students and five adults are involved in the show.

The students chose the musical in the fall, and they’ve been rehearsing the music and the play and thinking about it since the middle of January. They began rehearsing on the stage at the end of February.

This show is directed by senior drama student Keauna Miller, who is also starring in the play.

“The play was selected by our senior drama students — they wanted to do it,” said Taylor.

Taylor feels there are many reasons The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a great choice for the spring musical.

“The musical brings together a wonderful live band with wonderful ensemble singing numbers, and it features a comedic script,” he said “I think people will have a lot of fun at the show.”

The students play a big part in the musical, not only on the stage, but off.

All the lighting, colours and set design have been done with the students.

“The adults are there to support the students achieve their inspiration,” said Taylor. “That’s why I love doing musicals here. It’s extra-curricular and all done on volunteer time. It’s a teaching theatre, so it’s all about the students learning and growing in whatever aspect they’re interested in.”

“For this type of production, there are no grades; they’re not getting anything out of it except the joy of performing and being part of a group ensemble performing something together — it’s a wonderful thing to do,” he added.

The musical brings together many people from inside and outside the school.

“Our pianist is a professional vocal coach, and we have a community volunteer helping with costuming,” said Taylor. “The type of training students are getting here with our volunteers and staff is very high level. It would be difficult to find this experience in the area at no cost. It’s a great opportunity for students to gain some skills they can bring to many aspects of their life.”

The musical features participation from students in every grade.

“This has been a very dedicated cast,” said Taylor. “They had us rehearsing on Good Friday all day, and they asked us to rehearse all day this Saturday and Sunday and Friday late. We’ve put in 45 hours of rehearsal in the last two weeks. That’s pretty good when it’s all their own time they’re putting in to do it.”

Miller is excited to be directing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for a variety of reasons.

“I love that it’s an ensemble cast so we get to show off all of our students, and I love that it’s about a group of misfits coming together because I feel like everyone can relate to that,” she said. “Even though it’s set with middle school kids, the problems they’re facing are relatable to high school kids and adults too.”

Miller says being both director and actor is really challenging but also really rewarding.

“I’ve been in the acting role before, so it’s nice to be still exploring my talent and skill set and also to try a new role and see the show as a whole instead of myself in it,” she noted.

Miller is really impressed with the cast and crew for this musical.

“We have a really great group of students who are willing to be here so often,” she said. “It’s great. We have people here from the improv team that I’ve worked with for four years now, and then people who’ve just come in, so you get to see the range of talent we have in the school. I’m a  senior student, so I’ve seen these people since Grade 8, and it’s great to see the students grow.”

Miller says the musical is very funny, and people shouldn’t be put off by the words “spelling bee” in the title.

“I think you really grow to love the characters in the show,” she said. “It’s heartwarming.”

Miller is very grateful for the experiences she’s getting at LSS.

“I’m so thankful that our school and our teachers have afforded us these opportunities,” she said. “They’re working so hard and not getting paid, as well as our community volunteers. It’s a community effort, and I’m really glad Ladysmith is a place where this can happen.”

Ladysmith Secondary School presents The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee May 1-3 and May 8-10. Shows start at 7 p.m., and the doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for students and seniors and $15 for adults, and they are available at Salamander Books and at the main office at LSS. Tickets can also be purchased at the door.

Thanks to the generosity of the LSS Parent Advisory Council, the school is able to offer discounted tickets on “Family Thursdays.” For Thursday night shows, tickets for families are all discounted at the student price of $10 each.