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Bee Good

Halifax’s Theatre Arts Guild closes out its 2012-2013 season with a swift, sure blow to the funny bone with Rebecca Feldman’s madcap American cult-classic The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

And what could be better than catching a screwball comedy - with a crazy cast of kooky and colourful characters - on a warm summer soiree? 

Brian Hart is simply scrumptious as bad-boy Chip Tolentino, while Karla Bruce is rock-solid in the role of uber-nerd Marcy Park. Rebecca Guilderson (as super-spastic Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre) and Anders Balderston (as loveable, aloof Leaf Conybear) raise the raucousness to uproarious levels.

However, it is the last-standing duo of Karen Myatt (as lost and lonely Olive Ostrovsky) and Kyle Gillis (as nasally, bow-tied Willian Barfee) who bring a shine to the show; the former’s vocals soaring in lament on The I Love You Song, and the latter’s physicality making the most of his space, bringing out the best in all around him.

While the spellers spin the stage silly, the performance is held together by the steady hands of Margaret Champion (as Rona Lisa Peretti) and Ian Young (as Douglas Panch) – each of whom bring well-timed wit and experience to their respective roles. Andrew Chandler, Rayna Smith-Camp, Christine Chapman and Krystyna MacKay all go above-and-beyond to fill in the missing bits with a myriad of multitasking.

Kudos go to director Jolene Pattison for recognizing - and working with - each actor’s individual strengths. Her creative liberties put the particular (and peculiar!) pieces into a quirky, perky puzzle.

As such, and at the core of good community theatre, Spelling Bee is more than the sum of its parts, with the end result being an off-beat, over-the-top, outrageous - and ultimately satisfying - production that is more than likely to leave summer audiences delighted. ~AE

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Until July 7 at the Pond Playhouse in Halifax

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