Red Oak High School Hawk Theatre presents 3 performances of 'Spelling Bee' musical

By Patty Hullett
For the Daily Light

The Red Oak Hawk Theatre group presented the popular Broadway musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at the high school Performing Arts Center on May 21-23.

Some of the main cast of the Red Oak High School Hawk Theatre's production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

This musical comedy, first performed in 2005, features music and lyrics by William Finn, based a book by Rachel Sheinkin, conceived by Rebecca Feldman, and with additional material by Jay Reiss.

Red Oak High School’s version was led by Director Jericho Thomas, with music direction by Keith Lathrom, and assistant direction by ROHS senior Donae Swanson.

Sr. Avery Culpepper (speller No. 7) and Jr. Jose Moreno (Boy Scout speller with microphone) perform in Red Oak High School Hawk Theatre's production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

This heart-warming musical was carried by a very talented group of students: Rona Lisa Peretti/Olive’s Mom as played by junior Jayden Douglas; Chip Tolentino/Dan Dad as played by junior Jose Moreno; Logainne Schwartzandgrunenierre as played by senior Avery Culpepper; Leaf Coneybear/Jesus Christ as played by freshman Omar Chavez; William Bartee as played by senior Landon Blanton; Marcy Park as played by senior Brooklynn Sherman; Olive Ostrovsky as played by junior Ella Simpson; Douglas Panch as played by senior Nathan Wilson; and Mitch Mahoney/Olive’s Dad/Carl's Dad as played by senior Davion Mouton.

Speller No. 15, Olive Ostrovsky, played by Jr. Ella Simpson, sings a solo number.

Per the “Director’s Note” as listed in the Red Oak Hawk Theatre playbill:

"Director’s Note (as in spelling bee tradition)

"VOICE: Mr. Thomas… please spell …. COVID-19.

"MR. THOMAS: COVID-19. May I have a definition, please?

"VOICE: An acute respiratory illness in humans caused by a coronavirus, capable of producing severe symptoms and in some cases death, especially in older people and those with underlying health conditions. It was originally identified in China in 2019 and became a global pandemic in 2020.

"MR. THOMAS: Thank you. Are there any alternate definitions?

"VOICE: An illness that touches and alters every corner of one’s social, emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental life.

"MR. THOMAS: Thank you. Can you please use it in a sentence?

"VOICE: Life will never be the same after COVID-19."

Per Thomas: “It’s ironic that, in a director’s note about a show about a spelling bee, I have no more words for the past year. No more words of comfort, of shock, no more of levity or grief. This virus almost took my dad. It has infected me and everyone I know. Funerals and quarantines and masks. News, news, and more news. I don’t have any more WORDS. I barely have any more energy.

“Except to say this: As the pandemic raged, I made art. I watched art. I read art. I taught art. I directed art. I laughed at art. I wept at art. Through a mask, I breathed art. Locked down in my apartment, I wrote art. Socially distanced from my family, friends, and students. I clung to art. I dreamed art, prayed art, hoped art, spoke art, loved off of art.

“And now, on what feels like the first true opening night in over a year, with a flickering light at the end of what had been one of the darkest tunnels in memory, I now get to share art again.

“I’d invite you, as teachers often do, to take a moment and reflect on the art that got you

through the past year. That got you through last week. That’s getting you through this weekend. Take the spellers’ advice to heart — to hear the word, breathe, and wait.”

"MR. THOMAS: COVID-19. A-R-T-M-A-K-E-S-L-I-F-E-W-O-R-T-H-L-I-V-I-N-G. COVID-19.

"VOICE: That is correct.

"MR. THOMAS: (in conclusion) – “I guess I do still have some words. I hope that all who attended one of our three performances over the past weekend, got to ENJOY the show!”