Hilarity ensues during ‘The 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee’

Published 2:57 pm Friday, September 27, 2019

One wrong letter in a spelling bee makes all the difference between winning and losing.

Throw in “potentially made-up” words and the competition becomes more challenging for a quirky group of middle-schoolers competing in the “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a musical comedy that will be presented by the Vicksburg Theatre Guild. Performances begin Thursday, Oct. 3 at the Parkside Playhouse Theatre.

“This musical is a hilarious and heartwarming look at a group of socially awkward youngsters in pursuit of the spelling championship of a lifetime and chance to compete at the National Bee in Washington D.C.,” Sam Lovorn, the musical’s director, said.

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Additionally, Lovorn said, the cast of characters will disclose hilarious and touching stories from their home lives.

As one of the VTG’s 2019-2020 regular season shows, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will also include an audience component.

“Anyone in attendance will have the opportunity to ‘compete’ in the spelling bee alongside the cast,” Lovorn said. “Before the show, a booth will be set up in the lobby for theatre patrons to apply to be in the bee.

“And for each of the performances, four lucky audience members will be chosen to participate in the bee to see if they can out spell the students. No previous spelling experience is required to participate.”

Lovorn said he was excited to have the opportunity to direct the musical since one of the songs from the show had been part of his senior repertoire.

“When I was a senior at Mississippi College, I sang, ‘I’m Not That Smart’ as the closer of my senior recital, and in preparation, I did research on the musical and fell in love with the show and music,” Lovorn said. “I also had the opportunity to take a voice lesson from Steven Purdy, the musical director for the National Tour of “Spelling Bee” and was able to get further insight into the musical.”

While it was hard for Lovorn to say what his favorite scene was from the musical, he said he especially liked the “Pandemonium” musical number in the first act.

“It’s when the spellers sing about how they feel, and then absolute pandemonium and chaos ensues on stage,” he said.

Lovorn’s favorite in Act 2 is the “I Love You Song.”

“The song is a trio between Alex Long, Nykkoa Morris, and Clarence Shelby and all three of their powerful voices truly bring the house down with their beautiful harmonies,” he said.

In addition to Long, Morris and Shelby, rounding out the cast are Clarissa Elizabeth Walker, Tyler Gardner, Gena Harpole, Eric Johnson, Celeste Constancio, Reed McCallum, Andrew Cochran and Peyton Pierce.

With seven weeks to prepare, Lovorn said, he was fortunate to have such a talented cast.

“The cast has worked incredibly hard in a professional way to bring this show to the stage in such a short time. Plus, they are extremely talented performers and musicians, so they were able to pick up the music pretty quickly,” he said.

Lovorn also praised the production staff of the show.

“It takes an entire village to produce a musical no matter what the size of the production, and I have been extremely fortunate to have an amazing group of people helping me behind the scenes,” he said.

Jim Shirley, Bobby Newell, and Sarah Goss worked with the entire cast on sets, Eric Johnson assisted with music and Theresa Shirley helped with costumes, Lovorn said.

“Also, Dr. Paul Ballard has been a fantastic liaison and guide in helping me acclimate myself in the VTG family of directors. Mike Calnan has taken care of many logistical aspects and Parker Waites has been my right-hand man as the stage manager,” Lovorn said.

Performances of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” will be offered Oct. 3, 5, 10, 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 6 and 13 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20, $14 for ages 65 and older, and $10 for ages 12 and younger. Tickets are available at the VTG theatre box office, 101 Iowa Ave., and online at www.showclix.com/events/10243.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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