Theatre: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

I was part of a large gathering of bloggers who went to see Tuesday night's preview of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Donmar organised by the West End Whingers. It was a huge gathering and it felt as if half the circle audience had their own blog and a minor following...

Anyway, this is a show about a spelling bee, and the lives of its awfully competitive American contestants. This show looks so polished now that it is hard to believe it is an early preview. Only the sounds from the grumbling of the creative team (if you're sitting in the circle) would give away that this is still a work in progress.

I was familiar with this show and had seen it on Broadway in 2006. As I also was a speller back then, I was familiar with the audience participation format, which requires a careful selection of participants who won't ham it up or be too smug... That ruled out most of we bloggers I suspected...

This show is quirky and very funny with the book by Rachel Sheinkin and songs by William Finn giving it a heart. It is an odd sort of musical for the Donmar, given that they usually stage musicals about psychologically damaged people in despair. Maybe their angle is spellers in dispair, but at least in this show it is a comedy. Tuesday's preview did not get the balance between comedy and cartoonish characters quite right, but hopefully this will be ironed out as the run progresses.

The show looks great and even the black wall of the Donmar gets painted brilliant white. It is also tempting not to take one of their cute t-shirts home after the production. Or an usher wearing one of them. They are all so cute.

It runs until 2 April at the Donmar, but surely now Avenue Q is no longer around there is room in the West End for a new warm and fuzzy show to have a long run...

Pre and post-show boos (as there is no intermission) are as follows...
Listen!
Listen!

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