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.
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!
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