SIX young people vying to win a spelling championship and breaking into song near the bleachers just like on Glee - The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee makes its Belfast debut at the MAC this week, in a co-production with Bruiser Theatre Company.
The mix of a school setting, classroom-style humour and punchy-upbeat songs means Spelling Bee should be prime theatrical fare for self-confessed ‘Gleeks’ - fans of the TV show starring Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch.
But the focus here is firmly on word-mastery with the contestants being asked to spell all manner of complicated nouns and ajectives: ‘capybara’, ‘acouchi’ and ‘weltanschauung’ are only the tip of the tongue-twisting list.
The MAC has teamed up with Bruiser to bring this Tony Award-winning production with music by William Finn to Belfast, with director Lisa May at the helm of a cast including Adam Dougall, Jolene O’Hara, Terence Keely and Gerard McCabe.
“This is a laugh-out-loud musical comedy about six young people - all lovable misfits grasping their chane to shine - who are vying to win the spelling championship of a lifetime,” said director Lisa May.
“Spelling Bee went down a storm in New York and we’re hoping audiences will have the same reaction here.
“It’s completely heart-warming and very like Glee in mood and theme and in terms of the characters involved - all of whom are odd and striving and make you want to root and cheer for them.
“It’s more of an experience than just coming to see a show. There’s an interactive dimension to this too where we break the fourth wall.”
Chip (Adam Dougal) is the reigning spelling champion of Putnam and is joined by Logainne (Jolene O’Hara), Leaf (Terence Keeley), who suffers from attention deficit disorder but delights in his wandering focus, the combative William (Gerard McCabe) who spells out words with his foot, shy Olive (Fiona Carty) who reads the dictionary and over-achiever Marcy (Kat Reagan), who imagines Jesus appears to her during a high moment of stress in the competition.
“This piece fits perfectly into Bruiser’s repertoire as we’re known for physical and music theatre. Here we have lots of choreography and energy. We’ve had an absolute ball rehearsing it.”
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, the MAC, Belfast until May 4. Visit www.themaclive.com.