Review by Danny Gaisin
‘APRICOT’, noun; a fruit. Seventy-odd years ago by spelling it APRACOT, this scribe lost out on making history as the only Grade 6 entry on Iona Ave. Public School’s Spelling Bee team. Haven’t eaten one since! So, why bring back old memories by attending a performance of Simcoe Little Theatre’s iteration of the Finn/Sheinkin play The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, here-to-for abbreviated “T25APCSB”. Because it’s a cute bit of fluff and especially because the major members of the cast are kids. Talented kids, adorable kids, funny kids- what’s NOT to like?
The directing team of Tony & Michelle Proracki both have teaching and musical backgrounds. Photo by RoseLe Studio
* Naturally their involvement is triple-hatted:- directorial, orchestral and terpsichoreal. The story line emulates today’s popular reality TV show genre – a large group gets whittled down except in this instance it isn’t a popularity contest – it’s based on ability. Each contestant represents a personality stereotype with exaggerated warts. The geek, the clique joiner, the over-confident, the humble self-effacing, the class clown and the beauty queen. All of these are ruled by the Rizzo (Grease) youngster strutted by a delightful Rylea O’Toole.
I found myself taking notes utilizing the contestant’s placard numbers. Therefore, I came home with observations about nos. 73; 19; 85; 15; 37 & 06. Hopefully, we won’t screw up their actual identities. A caped R.J. Quinlan is very noticeable especially with his solo number ‘I’m not That Smart’, that reflects what most folks will appreciate. The role interpretation by Kiara Barrow shows a depth of feeling that is visceral. Same effort is imparted by Hannah Dolson and this writer could recall so many of my old class mates who she epitomizes. Dolson super-projects personality and possesses sophisticated voice control. It was fun observing Jim Donovan & Jada Dawson offering a mini portrait of their teen genres. Obviously, the directors permitted the youngsters leeway to incorporate their own sense of the roles being staged.
Young thespians occasionally exhibit a certain something that is hard to describe but is innate, and thus extremely noticeable. Veronica Kruis, Maggie Baker & Jaden Banfield all have this thing and hopefully SLT will keep offering them opportunities on stage. We especially noticed Baker’s uncanny facial visage and those most expressive eyes.
“T25APCSB” deals with competition, something always fraught with tension and gut-wrenching. Portraying anxiety, rivalries, ambition, goal achievement and loss are all visceral reactions. For somewhat non-matured thespians to portray these emotions in a convincing manner reflects not only on their own abilities but is a challenge for the directorial crew. We certainly weren’t disappointed by Simcoe Little Theatre‘s reading and hope that the three-week run sells out.
Just for kicks, there’s one word (not a name) in the above that won’t pass a ‘SpellCheck’ test. Try to find it! Hint- it isn’t “Theatre” instead of “Theater”