4.5-⭐ · Fringe Reviews 2018 · Reviews · Theatre Reviews

REVIEW: ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ by Honeycomb Productions

4.5 Stars

An already charming and unique musical comedy that’s absolutely nailed by this group of talented young performers with a near overwhelming degree of skill. 

Each one of these actors entirely disappears into their role, having you believing them, without question, as American elementary school students within seconds of the performance beginning. Tom Carron (Barfèe), Matt Boyle (Leaf), and Georgia Stewardson (Logan) in particular embrace the over-the-top caricature nature of their roles and deliver entirely gut-busting, yet also entirely sincere performances. Seeing all of these actors perform this production as their characters and then hearing them talk as themselves outside afterwards can be rather disconcerting, and is a testament to their skill in understanding, interpreting, and delivering character. The performance of Stanford as Vice-Principal Panch is a hilarious joy to both see and hear, with Stanford possessing an utterly superb command of comic timing and delivery that frequently steals the spotlight at exactly the right moments. 

I almost always go in to musicals at the Fringe expecting some of the cast to be a little shaky on the singing, and it’s something I’ve come to overlook a bit. That in mind I was a little taken a back by how flawless the singing was across the board for this show. All the singing cast are astoundingly talented vocalists and more than capable not only of handling all the musical numbers the show throws at them but also knocking them out of the park. Rachel Clements (Olive) and Laura Verecchia (Marcy) are, I think, the standout vocalists of this production and in particular seem to understand what being a singer in the musical theatre sense requires. A couple of the cast do need to work a little on projecting over the music, though this may be due to mic issues so I shan’t hold it too much against them. 

The execution of the show’s classic audience participation element was done masterfully on the showing I was invited to see, and the wider air of involvement of and engagement with the audience maintained hilarious throughout. I was slightly startled when one actress addressed one line directly to me early on in the show, but also highly amused. The little moments that seemed to be improvisation or, at least, decided very quickly before the show began to fit the individual participants were inspired and went down a storm with the audience. 

This was a delightful hour and a half of musical silliness. Just as funny and as sweet as this show is meant to be, Honeycomb Productions’ performance of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is blessed in its cast, its musicians, and its direction. A triumph of a performance and well worth getting up a little earlier than my disastrous sleep-cycle is used to.


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