Theater review: ‘Spelling Bee’ both moving and funny

03/08/2011 5:56 AM |
Michael Hipp, center, as Leaf Coneybear, spells the names of South American rodents in a scene from 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee' at North Fork Community Theatre in Mattituck. The musical continues through March 20.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Michael Hipp, center, as Leaf Coneybear, spells the names of South American rodents in a scene from 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee' at North Fork Community Theatre in Mattituck. The musical continues through March 20.

There is a late Valentine, cheery as a bouquet and tasty as chocolate, waiting for you at North Fork Community Theatre in Mattituck: The Tony Award-winning “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin.

Beautiful melodies, intriguing harmonies, skillful choreography by Michael Disher and fabulous accompaniment by Robert Peterson are all combined under the able direction of Ken Rowland, who needs no spangly curtain or glittery drop as long as he has the talented, inventive lighting director Charlie Scheer.

More than all that, the script shows how competition can turn into a struggle for survival and how a prize can become not merely a statuette, but life or death. That’s what good theater does. It entertains but also suggests and informs. The contestants learn that winning isn’t everything and losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser.

To handle all this takes courage and skill. The old joke has it that an actor’s last words on his deathbed were, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” If you reach for crimson, you may attain pink. If you play to the back of the house, you may reach row M. If your character is “exuberant,” you may project “happy.” Good comic actors don’t know the meaning of timidity. In the TV series “Glee,” the characters’ jealousies, dreads and longings have the strength of undiluted poison.

NFCT’s production of “Spelling Bee” was produced by the capable, thoughtful and personable Margaret Motto. It opens promisingly with the assured presence and magnificent singing of Kelli Baumann, followed by a generous, believable performance by Daniel Yaiullo, one of those performers who make you miss them when they exit and elated when they return.

Amy Rowland and Jessica Raven give two totally different characterizations, both of which please and move the audience equally.

Michael Hipp is in a class by himself. He is enchanting as a singer and as a comic. James Stevens, too, is splendid, singing beautifully and handling comedy skillfully.

Amanda Mouzakes and Ryan Beodeker provide accomplished comic turns as well as some tender, intimate moments that are very moving.

David Markel is an authoritative mainstay of the production and when, at the end, he makes a generous, humane gesture, it is enormously affecting.

Earlier this month, “Watson” the supercomputer won the TV game show “Jeopardy.” It beat two humans without ever comprehending or understanding the semantic content of its answers. How much an actor adds to the semantic content of his lines is usually in direct proportion to how much we in the audience enjoy the play.

‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’
North Fork Community Theatre
Old Sound Avenue, Mattituck
Performances continue Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., and Sundays, 2:30 p.m., through March 20.
For tickets, visit or call 631-298-NFCT (6328).



6 Comment

  • RLC are NOT a safety device.

    Most RLV crashes are plus 5 seconds into red and have secondary themes like DUI, fleeing police, not paying attention. These will NEVER be stopped by a RLC!

    Most RLC “tickets” are for technical fouls like right turns or stopping over the stop line.

    IN this article, it is very obvious that the amber is TOO SHORT for all the vehicles.

    Longer ambers will reduce the violations for straight thru to unprofitable levels.

    But, that is what a RLC VENDOR DOESN’T WANT!

    RLC companies REQUIRE techincal fouls to make a business case for RLC!

    It is time to BAN THE CAMS!

    also check out NY sites: (protest on May 1:

  • Ya think they should just adjust the yellow light time? maybe there would be enough time to stop? ya think? I know I get all stressed when I come even close to lights these day’s. Should I speed up? or slam on the breaks hoping someone behind me doesn’t slam into me.. Sheesh

  • Drivers possessing a Commercial Driver License, driving those school buses and fuel trucks mentioned, should have been taught that when approaching a green light that has not been observed changing to green, to treat it as a “stale” green light; meaning it may change at any time soon. The driver should remove his foot from the accelerator pedal and place it over the brake pedal (known as covering the brake) when approaching the light. This reduces the speed of the vehicle slightly and also decreases the time it takes to stop the vehicle. And with no posted 65mph speed limits on Long Island, why are these vehicles traveling that fast ! Drive safely, and you won’t have to worry about the red light cameras.

  • I know what you mean. I think that stress may come from the fact that yellow lights differ in their timing. If we all knew that a yellow light would remain yellow for a set amount of time we might all be able to react accordingly. Even those impatient cars behind you could anticipate your decision to stop or go. 3.9 – 5 seconds may not seem like much of a range, but when you’re moving fast it can make a big difference when deciding whether to stop.

  • i think that action must also have to consider, just for good most especially to the truck rentals company.

  • that is one thing to consider most especially to those truck drivers,, truck rentals company must conduct a seminars about safety.