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Theatre and Dance Department to perform ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’


Kylara Pankow, left, and Dominic Dagdagan star in CSUEB's production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

  • February 26, 2016

Cal State East Bay’s Department of Theatre and Dance presents the Tony Award-winning musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” March 4-5 and 11-12 at 8 p.m., and March 13 at 2 p.m. at the University Theatre on the Hayward campus. Tickets are currently available at the Pioneer Bookstore and online at

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” with music and lyrics by William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin, direction by Marc N. Jacobs, musical direction by Sierra Dee, and choreography by Laura Elaine Ellis, is a musical-comedy populated by a cast of quirky characters. “There are six unique 12-year-olds ferociously competing to be crowned spelling bee champs, while being barely reined in by three madcap adults,” said Jacobs. “In a comical and unusual twist, some audience members are brought on stage to compete as spellers, inviting moments of improvisational hilarity.”

The play’s connection with Cal State East Bay goes back 10 years, when Tony Award-winning alumnus James Monroe Iglehart (BA '98, Theater) portrayed Comfort Counselor Mitch Mahoney in San Francisco’s Post Theatre production. “His performance was so striking that producers reformatted future performers’ interpretations of that character to match that of James’,” said Jacobs, who attended one of Iglehart's performances. Jacobs was struck by the show’s “hysterically funny but also very disturbing” tone. Adolescence, Jacobs found, is a scary but adventurous time, ripe for comedic performance, “and that’s what I want our CSUEB production to be about.”

The six competitors, portrayed by Cal State East Bay students, are all outcasts or nerds in their own way. Some, like William Barfee (played by Kevin Redrico), are overcome by hyper-competitiveness and parental pressure to succeed. Others, like Olive Ostrovsky (played by Amelia Loredo), suffer from parental neglect or disaffection. They are all united, however, by their love of spelling. Each child eventually comes to a realization about their own values and self-worth, exiting the bee as champions of a different sort.

The 2005 Broadway production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” was a smash hit, garnering six Tony Award nominations and two wins, including Best Book. Cal State East Bay’s production features Jorge Almaraz as Leaf Coneybear; Beth Campbell as Marcy Park; Lauren Chatfield, Kevin Dyer, Jasmine Kharma and Emily Kistner as Hall Monitors; Dominic Dagdagan as Chip Tolentino; Jamail Davis as Mitch Mahoney; Mariah Kuhn as Rona Lisa Perretti; Loredo as Olive Ostrovsky; Kylara Pankow as Loggaine Schwartzeandgrubenniere; Redrico as William Barfee; and Blake Weaver as Vice Principal Panch.

For more information about the production, call Cal State East Bay’s Department of Theatre and Dance at (510) 885-3118, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. In addition to online and at The Pioneer Bookstore, tickets will be available at the University Theatre box office one hour before show time. The box office accepts cash, Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards and checks made out to CSUEB.

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