It’s spelled F-U-N

WHS students will perform one-cat musical comedy about spelling bee experiences

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Four audience members will have the opportunity to put their spelling skills to the test when Washougal High School students perform in “The 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee,” this weekend.

It’s a one-act musical comedy with music and lyrics by William Finn, which centers on a fictional spelling bee set at Putman Valley Middle School.

Six unique teens compete in the Bee, which is organized by three unusual adults.

The circumstances around the musical are unusual as well. Due to inclement weather, the cast missed 14 rehearsals and director Kelly Gregersen was unsure of whether the show would go on.

“I found out when we got back to school that the kids were getting together during breaks and Facetiming the other kids who were stuck on the mountain and couldn’t get out,” Gregersen said. “When we got back to rehearsals, everything was pretty much on schedule.”

Although one weekend of performances was dropped from the schedule due to the weather, the show will go on.

The 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee

When: Show times are 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 16 to 18 at the Washburn Performing Arts Center at WHS, 1201 39th St. A 2 p.m. matinee will be held Feb. 18. The cost is $10 for adults and $8 for students.

Fundraisers: Excelsior students will host a dessert fundraiser during intermission at the Feb. 17 show. Additionally, the WHS Grad Night parents will have a taco dinner and silent auction before the Feb. 18 show, from 5 to 7 p.m.

The cost is $5 per person, or $20 per family (five maximum). It is $3 for additional family members. Dinner includes two tacos, toppings, rice, beans, chips, a beverage and dessert. Winners of the silent auction will be announced at intermission. Winners need not be present. All proceeds benefit the drug- and alcohol-free Senior Grad Night Party.

“This is just a super fun piece to direct,” Gregersen said. “We were looking to do a musical that was something other than a Disney musical. This has an audience volunteer piece that is really cool, too.”

The musical, which was written in 2005, was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two, including best book.

It has been produced in the United States and other countries.

Gregersen noted that he had never worked with a more dedicated group of students.

“This really gives them the freedom to bring their own ideas to this show and really make it their own, which they have been very enthusiastic about,” he said.

Senior Gabe Heinrich plays the role of tough ex-con Mitch Mahoney, who is assigned to sensitivity counseling at the Bee.

“He just got out on parole and has never been the caring type,” Heinrich said. “But throughout the show, he acknowledges that he actually likes comforting people.”

His favorite aspect of the character is how people see a different side than what meets the eye.

“We’ve all seen ‘that guy’ on the street, where you walk on the other side to avoid him,” Heinrich said. “But with this character, you discover sweetness under the tough exterior. That is what I like the most.”

Senior Shelley Morgan plays homeschooler Leaf Coneybear.

“She has never been to a public school in her life and makes her own clothes,” she said.

To better emulate her character, Morgan made her own cape, decorated a helmet and created a unique pair of jeans.

“She is experiencing a whole new world at the Bee,” she said. “Along the way, she discovers that she is actually a pretty smart kid.”

Cast list

Cast: Chip Tolentino (Braden Harness), Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere, (Rose Elsensohn), Leaf Coneybear (Shelley Morgan), William Barfee (Alex Wilmoth), Marcy Park (Audrey Flock), Olive Ostrovsky (Rachel Lyall), Rona Lisa Peretti (Shelby Brock), Douglas Panch (Sean Finucane), Mitch Mahoney (Gabe Heinrich), Carl Dad (Shane Fussell), Dan Dad (Matt Condon), Olive’s Mom (Bridgette McCarthy), Olive’s Dad (Alan Anderson), Jesus (River Pike), Leaf’s Mom (Tori Corkum), Marigold Coneybear (Emily McNeale).

Ensemble: Paris Mitchell, Holly Erickson, Haley Barlow, Kyra Pierce, Grace Jacobsen, McKenna Briggs, Courtney Dillman, Caleb Graham, Kaila Bisby, Sofia Gunn, Alexis Brock, Megan Stogin, Patience Silvers, Lauren Boyles, Casey Rappe, Elyssa Swainston, Tessa Jones, Paula Perez, Hallie Morris, Chloe Connors, ShaylaRae Tyner, Taylor Bolenbaugh, Emmy Campen, Cedar Turner, Madison Wilcox, Megan Churchman, Jade Darrow, Sydney Mederos.

Junior Shelby Brock is playing the role of Rona Lisa Peretti.

“She won the spelling bee when she was younger and that was kind of her peak in life,” Peretti said. “This is the one thing in her life that was what she wanted it to be. Now, she feels that the well-being of the Bee is her duty.”

Peretti noted that her character is also a real-estate agent, so she has a whole attitude of “nice.”

“It’s kind of funny because I am not like that at all,” she said. “Humor and sarcasm go right over her head, so that is so not me. But I do like how she cares for other people.”