Second Studio to close out season with “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

Second Studio, Southern Utah University’s student theatre company, will be performing their final production of the 2022-2023 season, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” “Spelling Bee,” directed by Alyssa Garcia, written by Rachel Sheinkin and featuring music by William Finn, will be in the SUU Black Box from March 30 to April 1 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee April 1 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets cost $5. Immediately following Thursday’s show, there will be a middle school dance-themed opening night gala in the Auditorium Tap Studio, AU109. 

“Spelling Bee” follows the events that transpire during the titular bee, but at its core, the show is about the personal growth experienced by the characters within it.

“Every single person in the show comes in with issues,” said Averee Adams, who plays Mitch Mahoney. “We all find discovery through the bee, which is kind of an interesting part of the show.”

Garcia proposed the show to the Second Studio board in the hopes that she would be able to revisit a past show. Second Studio had been slated to do “Spelling Bee” in 2020, and Garcia was cast in the role of Marcy Parks.

“It feels like a full-circle moment for me with my time here at SUU, and I’m so happy that I get to close it with this cast and crew,” said Garcia.

“Spelling Bee” is also a musical, which has a different set of demands from Second Studio’s straight plays. For one, it utilizes a music director to teach the cast how to sing each of the songs in the show.

“I help kind of incorporate Alyssa’s vision into the way that we sing the music so that way they are cohesive and not two separate things,” said music director Jett Larson.

Another challenge faced by the team behind “Spelling Bee” was some casting changes that had to be made throughout the process. Prior to the start of rehearsals, the actor who had originally been cast as William Barfée was pulled into a different show, and Carson Tanner was brought in to play the role.

Another change in casting came further into the process, when the actor cast as Chip Tolentino dropped from the show about two and a half weeks before opening night. Understudy Austin Fronk was placed in the role, and Zachary Barnaby joined the cast in Fronk’s old understudy track.

“I felt very welcomed, and I’ve loved it,” said Fronk. “Everyone’s been super helpful in catching me up and making sure this show still runs smoothly.”

Casting was not the only unique challenge throughout “Spelling Bee” rehearsals. The show changed rehearsal spaces three times throughout the process due to limited spaces on campus and the fact that at one point, there were five different shows in rehearsals at the same time. Stage manager Sierra May also had to miss a week and a half of rehearsals due to her also stage managing the Spring Dance Concert, meaning that assistant stage manager Rachel Bowman had to step in during that time.

“Every bump in the road that we’ve crossed, we’ve been able to jump over and have a good time,” said May.

Article by: Tessa Cheshire

Photos courtesy of Second Studio