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St. Dunstan’s hosts its own ‘Spelling Bee’

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St. Dunstan’s Theatre Guild of Cranbrook is one of the oldest extant community theatres around and has been performing in its current theater since 1932. The group stays rigorously current, however, and this weekend will be offering a production of the Broadway favorite, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

In this sweet, slightly cynical little musical, six young people in the throes of puberty battle to be champion of the local spelling bee. The stakes are high; for some of these kids, the spelling bee is the only place they fit in and excel. But the children must overcome their own personal challenges while surviving the scrutiny of grown-ups who have barely managed to escape childhood themselves. Although the adults may be set in their ways, the kids (most of them) learn that winning isn't everything and that losing doesn't necessarily make you a loser.

One of the most hilarious things about this charming musical is that every character is played by an adult actor. This device adds greatly to the physical humor while underscoring the simple fact that children often exhibit greater maturity than the self-obsessed adults. Somehow, this adds to the empathy factor – and makes some of the injustices represented here ring as true as they did in our own adolescence. In fact, St. Dunstan’s carries forward the tradition of selecting four volunteers from the audience to participate in the highly competitive spelling contest. So this could be your big chance…

The St. Dunstan’s production of “Putnam County Spelling Bee” is directed by Marcus Laban , with music direction by Deborah Tedrick and choreography by Angela Tomaszycki.

The cast includes: Ramsey Valentyn as Chip Tolentino, Lauren DePorre as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, Christopher Smith as Leaf Coneybear, Jeff Foust as William Barfee, Bridget Leary as Marcy Park, Sarah Rydewski as Olive Ostrovsky, Beth Lackey as Rona Lisa Perretti, Alan Canning as Vice-Principal Douglas Panch and Gannon Styles as Mitch Mahoney.

The creative team includes: Mairo Towle (Producer), Nat Towle (Assistant Director), Tom Edson (Set Design and Construction), Kathleen Shapiro and Linda Watson (Costume Designers), Chris Steinmayer (Sound Design), and Frank Dorset (Lighting), Michael Campion (Stage Carpenter), and Molly Dorset and Roberta Campion (Publicity).

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” runs January 17 through February 1, 2014. Performances on Fridays and Saturdays are at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 2 p.m. See the website for details. St. Dunstan's features open seating; the ticket counter opens for will-call tickets one hour before curtain and seating begins 1/2 hour before.

Free parking is available across the street from the theater or in the parking lot of Christ Church Cranbrook, one block east of the theater. It’s recommended that patrons allow a few minutes walking time. St. Dunstan’s is located at 400 Lone Pine Rd. in Bloomfield Hills. This production is recommended for theatergoers 13 and over.

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