Bellarine and LBI Foundation Pairing Spells Success.

The cast of the "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" playing at the LBI Foundation in Loveladies this coming weekend. (Courtesy of Bellarine Theatre Company)
The cast of the "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" playing at the LBI Foundation in Loveladies this coming weekend. (Courtesy of Bellarine Theatre Company)

Based on the audience reaction to the Bellarine Theater Company’s initial presentation at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences this past weekend, the new partnership is going to be a long and successful one.

“We are ecstatic about have musical theater added to our repertoire here at the Foundation,” said Executive Director Jen Begonia. This is the first time the foundation has done live theater, and Begonia admitted she was a “little” nervous having just taken over as executive director less than a month ago.

She appeared much calmer recently with a near capacity crowd on hand despite a blustery and about to be snowy Sunday evening. There had been a sold out show the night before and “fantastic” opening night and theater company reception on Friday, she said.

Bellarine, based in West Creek, appeared to have picked a winner out of the gate with their production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a musical comedy that leaves not one comedic stereotype stone unturned, including puberty, pushy and absentee parents, an apparent "Tiger Mom" progeny and mobster fulfilling his community service as a “comfort counselor.”
The small cast, eight actors and actresses, who play the adolescent contestants, the adults running the bee and their parents moved seemingly effortlessly on the small stage despite constant movement and some tricky dance routines.

Director Caitlin Hughes said the play was picked to fit the smaller stage at the Foundation as opposed to some of larger productions Bellarine produces at Little Egg Harbor’s Pineland Regional High School in the summer.  
The play runs at breakneck speed and appeared to hold the audience’s attention as they did not miss one line, quick quip or sly innuendo.

The show, which was a smash Broadway hit in the early 2000s, had gotten some updating to the script to make it both local and topical. One participant was said to have been delayed after “hitting a pothole on Route 72.”

At another point, a contestant complained that the bee is “less organized than the Sochi Olympics.”

There is a real surprise for the audience, at least four of them, as they were plucked from the audience to also become “contestants.”
Note: Those who plan on attending next weekend’s three closing performances should dress accordingly, as they may be making their theatrical debut.
Not wanting to spoil anyone’s fun any more than that, and not being a reviewer I will not go on and on about how much I really enjoyed the production. Or how extremely talented and completely believable I found each and every cast member in their roles.

The cast members are:

AJ Mendini as “Chip Tolentino” and “Mr. Schwartzandgrubenierre”

Jenna Kuerzi as “Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre”

Chris Hutch as “Leaf Coneybear” and the other “Mr. Schwartzandgrubenierre”

Corey Smith as “William Barfee” (Bar-fay)

Jannah Tabbacchino as “Olive Ostrovsky”

Maddie Ernst as “Marcy Park”


Nicole Picinio as “Rona Lisa Peretti” and “Mrs.Ostrovsky”

Jim McCabe as “Vice Principal Douglas Panch” and “God”

Michael McEntee as “Mitch Maloney” and “Mr. Ostrovsky”

There will be three final performances this weekend Mar. 21, 22 & 23 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students. They may be purchased online at bellarinetheatre.com, by phone at 609-661-2083 or at the door. Seating is limited.


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