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The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

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Spring CAT show is musical comedy

Whitney Veazey

The Department of Cinematic Arts & Theatre is showing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as their spring show, with dates in mid-late April. 

The show is centered around a group of six elementary and middle school aged children at the Putnam Valley Middle School spelling bee. The show is run by two adults who have their own quirks, but the real stars of the show are the six students: Olive Ostrovsky, a competitive spelling newcomer, and frequently abandoned child; William Morris Barfée, a previous finalist of the bee with a unique, and famous, way of spelling words; Logainne “Schwartzy” SchwartzandGrubenierre, the youngest and most overachieving speller with two overbearing fathers; Marcy Park, a transfer student from Virginia who placed in the nationals the previous year; Leaf Coneybear, a second runner up and homeschooled kid from a hippie family; and Charlito “Chip” Tolentino, the previous champion of the spelling bee who is seeking to defend his title. As the show progresses, the inner struggles and familiar middle school issues of the kids start to emerge.

The show had an official workshop in 2004 before going Off-Broadway in 2005. The same year, it debuted on Broadway. Since then, it has had national tours and productions in countries across the world (the most recent official production being the 2017 Tel Aviv production). 

It won two Tony Awards in 2005, and was nominated for the Best Musical Theatre Album at the Grammys in 2006. 

Star Smith is a student at UNA, and a transfer from Birmingham-Southern College. She plays the role of Olive in the show, and finds the show both new and fun for the department. 

While at Birmingham-Southern, Smith majored in musical theater. UNA’s theater department tends to lean towards straight plays (plays with only dialogue and no musical numbers), which leaves musical theater untapped. 

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve only been doing straight plays,” said Smith. “That’s the only acting opportunity I had. For the CAT department to be doing a musical this year is really exciting for me.”

Like Smith, student Gary Fuqua, Jr. is a transfer from a musical theater department. He transferred from the University of Alabama Birmingham this year, and is excited that he can continue to pursue musical theater. 

“This being the first musical that UNA’s done in a while is a nice change of pace. I’m definitely excited for the public to see it, and I hope it leads to more collaboration with music and theater at UNA.”

Fuqua plays the role of William Barfée, and he finds the character an interesting diversion from usual stereotypes.

“He’s this kind of passive-aggressive, arrogant kid,” said Fuqua. “He’s very geeky and nerdy, and I think it’s interesting because when we see geeky and nerdy characters, they’re typically wimpy or shy, but he’s very sure of self.”

They both note that the comedy and raunchy nature of the show is a change from what the department usually sticks to, and hope that the freshness can continue into future productions.

A unique aspect about the show is its interactive nature. Actors call on audience members to spell out words or join them on stage. No need to fret — the audience members are chosen and vetted beforehand. 

The production is actively looking for people to stand in as audience participants in their rehearsals. Any inquiries can be forwarded to directors Suzanne Reese-Mills and Abigail Dillard at [email protected] and [email protected] respectively.

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About the Contributors
Emma Tanner, Editor-in-Chief
Emma is Editor-in-Chief of the Flor-Ala. She is a senior from Killen, Ala. She is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications with a concentration in journalism and digital media. She was previously Managing Editor for the spring 2023 semester. She also served as News Editor from Jan. 2022 to Dec. 2022. She was previously a volunteer writer. Her favorite topics to cover are profiles and local news. Tanner has written since her childhood and grew a passion for journalism during high school. Aside from working on the Flor-Ala, she was also a research assistant for a psychological study at UNA and served as CASE ambassador president for the Fall 2022 semester.
Whitney Veazey, Chief Photographer
Whitney is a sophomore from Greenville, Ala. She is working towards a BFA with a concentration in photography. Whitney started at The Flor-Ala in Fall 2022 as a staff writer/photographer and is currently serving as chief photographer.

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