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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Rarely does a performance by a theater company in LA make me feel like I am in New York but with these young, talented “fraggles” (self-proclaimed nerds with an affinity for role-playing board games, comic book conventions, sci-fi and fantasy trilogies, fantasy video games, musical theater, and Harry Potter) I could feel the crackling energy of Times Square. The gusto with which this talented group of nine singer/actors took on “Spelling Bee” at The Cupcake Theatre in Hollywood from May 2-24, 2014 matches their successful and acclaimed 2012 production of “Urine Town”. Powerhouse singing voices paired with strong characterizations and obvious commitment to “the work” makes this a theater company to watch for in the future.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Directed by the capable Ryan Foy, the squeaky clean tween angst surrounding the 25th anniversary of the small Putnam County’s spelling bee is adeptly played out by six talented and varied characters all vying to win this coveted spelling contest. Led by powerhouse Chelsea Costa (as former spelling bee champ Rona Lisa Perretti,), each student does his best using his or her own unique methods to overcome the tremendous pressure to deliver their final spelling answers with real and sometimes made-up words such as “agdeziews” and “ecdysiast”. Those incorrect spellers not passed to the next level go home with not a chicken dinner, but a juice box consolation prize!

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Beautifully accompanied by Music Director Wayne Moore’s band, this adaptation of Spelling Bee wove hilarious modern references into the script and delighted audiences by dispensing actual candy during a rousing song about erections. All of the adult actors in this tween musical got to really play, although Jennifer Saltiel’s connected, cutie-pie Olive Ostrovsky and Kristen Gull’s lovely, lispy Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere stole the show. Najee Temple’s amazing entrance as Mitch Mahoney was only surpassed by his strong singing voice as he belted “Prayer of the Comfort Counsoler”. Steven Aaron Cohen as sketch speller William Barfee, vacillated between brilliance in his “Magic Foot” song and at times, over-characterization in his scenes, leaving the audience struggling to care for him at the end when he wins the Bee and falls in love. Fun and well-rehearsed choreography by Daniel May complimented the simple yet effective set.

Founded in 2012 by Grace Alpert, Jessica Aquila Cymerman, and Nora Davis, Fraggled Productions looks forward to producing more readings of original plays, musicals and cabaret shows in the future. Fraggledproductions.com

Written by: Cindy Marinangel 6-24-14

Cindy Marinangel has a passion for live performance. She is from California, but is currently based in NYC. A Cum Laude graduate of Purdue University, Cindy has enjoyed reviewing shows both nationally and internationally for The Times Square Chronicles.

Ken Fallin's Broadway

Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Escape To Margaritaville

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Jimmy Buffett, the singer, songwriter, author, sailor and entrepreneur whose roguish brand of island escapism on hits like “Margaritaville” and “Fins” made him something of a latter-day folk hero, especially among his devoted following of so-called Parrot Heads, died on Friday. He was 76.

His musical, Escape to Margaritaville, opened at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway on March 15 under the direction of Tony winner Christopher Ashley. The production closed on July 1 after 29 previews and 124 regular performances. A national tour launched in Providence, Rhode Island, in the fall of 2019.

Of the over 30 albums Buffett released, eight are certified gold and nine are certified platinum or multiplatinum.

Aside from his career in music, Buffett was involved in two restaurant chains named after two of his best-known songs; he owned Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant chain.

After entering hospice care just five days prior, Buffett died on September 1, 2023, at his home in Sag Harbor, New York, at the age of 76 from skin cancer (diagnosed in 2019) that had turned into lymphoma.

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Broadway

Saying Good-Bye to Actor Ron Cephas Jones

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Ron Cephas Jones passed away August 19th from a long-standing pulmonary issue. He was 66. Jones was best known for his role as William Hill in the drama series This Is Us (2016–2022), which earned him a Screen Actors Guild Award; along with four consecutive Primetime Emmy Award nominations, winning twice for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2018 and 2020.

Jones appeared in television series such as Mr. Robot (2015–2016), The Get Down (2016–2017), Luke Cage (2016–2018), and Truth Be Told (2019–2023). He also appeared in a number of films, including Half Nelson (2006), Across the Universe (2007), Glass Chin (2014), The Holiday Calendar(2018), Dog Days (2018), and Dolemite Is My Name (2019).


In film he was in He Got Game (1998), Sweet and Lowdown (1999), Half Nelson (2006), and Across The Universe (2007).

Jones was in a play based on the Billie Holiday song “Don’t Explain”. His performance caught the attention of a casting director, which led to Jones being offered the lead role in the Tazewell Thompson production of the Cheryl West play Holiday Heart in 1994. Jones has performed in several theatrical productions with the Steppenwolf  in Chicago. H appeared as the title character of Shakespeare’s Richard III with The Public Theater.  In 2022, he was nominated for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play at the 75th Tony Awards, for his performance in the Broadway play Clyde’s.

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Obituaries

The Fantaticks Composser Tom Jones Passes On

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The Fantasticks was a 1960 musical with music by Harvey Schmidt and book and lyrics by Tom Jones. It ran off-Broadway for 42 years (until 2002) and 17,162 performances, making it the world’s longest-running musical. The musical’s original cast included Jones as Henry, the Old Actor, and Jerry Orbach as El Gallo, the narrator, who sang Jones’ and Schmidt’s memorable “Try to Remember.”

Many productions followed, as well as television and film versions. The Fantasticks was  a staple of regional, community and high school productions since its premiere, with approximately 250 new productions each year. The show was revived off-Broadway from 2006 to 2017. The show was originally written for a summer theater at Barnard College. 

Tom Jones along with Schmidt also wrote 110 in the Shade, Celebration and I Do, I Do!, The original 110 in the Shade starred powerhouse Inga Swenson.


Their first Broadway show, 110 in the Shade, was revived on Broadway in a new production starring Audra McDonald.


I Do! I Do!,
their two-character musical starring Mary Martin and Robert Preston, was a success on Broadway and is frequently produced around the country and the world.

Jones passed away on Friday at his home in Sharon, Connecticut, following a battle with cancer. He was 95.

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Ken Fallin's Broadway

Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Saying Good-Bye To Paul Reubens

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Paul Reubens was an American actor and comedian, best known for creating and portraying the character Pee-wee Herman.

Reubens joined the Los Angeles troupe The Groundlings in the 1970s, and started his career as an improvisational comedian and stage actor. It was with the Groundlings that Reubens developed the Pee-wee character. After a failed audition for Saturday Night Live, Reubens debuted a stage show starring Pee-wee, The Pee-wee Herman Show, in 1981. Pee-wee became an instant cult figure and, for the next decade, Reubens was completely committed to his character, doing all of his public appearances and interviews as Pee-wee. He produced and wrote a feature film, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985), directed by Tim Burton, which was a financial and critical success. Its sequel, Big Top Pee-wee (1988), was less successful. Between 1986 and 1990, Reubens starred as Pee-wee in the CBS Saturday-morning children’s program Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

In 1991, Reubens was arrested for indecent exposure in an adult theater in Sarasota, Florida. The arrest set off a chain reaction of national media attention, though he received support from people in the entertainment industry. The arrest postponed Reubens’s involvement in major projects until 1999, when he appeared in several big-budget projects including Mystery Men (1999) and Blow (2001). Reubens subsequently started giving interviews as himself rather than as Pee-wee.  After 2006, Reubens made cameos and appearances in numerous film and television shows. In 2010, he revived The Pee-wee Herman Show, which he performed in Los Angeles and on Broadway. In 2016, he co-wrote and starred in the Netflix original film Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, reprising his role as Pee-wee Herman.

Reubens’s Pee-wee character maintained an enduring popularity with both children and adults. Playhouse garnered 15 Emmy Awards during its initial run, and was aired again on late-night television in the 2000s, during which TV Guide dubbed it among the top ten cult classic television programs. Reubens died in 2023 from cancer, a diagnosis which had been undisclosed to the public.

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Ken Fallin's Broadway

Ken Fallin’s Broadway: We Say Good-Bye To The Legendary Tony Bennett

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19 Grammys, he recorded 60 studio albums and dozens of live albums and compilations, he had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and now at 96th he has joined God’s choir. Astoria-born jazz legend Tony Bennett was one of the most popular interpreters of jazz, pop and Broadway standards, he died Friday in New York City, his rep confirmed to CBS News. .

A cause of death hasn’t been provided. Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016, His last public concerts were held with Lady Gaga at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in celebration of his 95th birthday in 2021.

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