Can you spell ‘hilarious’?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 7, 2012

By David Vitrano


RESERVE – When the curtain rises on St. John Theatre’s latest production, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” on Saturday, no one, including the actors and director Darryl Clement, is quite sure what is going to happen.

“There’s a script, but there are a lot of things up in the air,” said cast member Colleen Robinson.

That’s because the cast for each performance will include four guest spellers, two predetermined “celebrity” spellers and two chosen from the audience.

“We’re actually going to have a real spelling bee each night,” said Chris Frederic, who plays the very quirky contestant Leaf Coneybear. “They may get it right or they may get it wrong, so we don’t know. It’s never going to be the same two nights in a row.”

As one can imagine, pulling off such a show takes a certain amount of stage experience, something the small cast of this show certainly has. Most of them appeared in last year’s production of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” and every member of the cast is at least 16 years old.

“Everyone came in ready to go,” said cast member Sean Roussel.

This also meant less time was spent on such details as learning the script and getting cues right.

“We did it enough that we were able to change a few things up,” said Roussel.

Robinson added, “It’s been a lot of fun because you get the chance to play off everybody. There was an instant connection, which really helped.”

That fun comes through as the cast performs this quirky and funny musical. During a recent dress rehearsal, it was easy to see the cast members clearly enjoyed creating their characters. There certainly is that “anything can happen” atmosphere about the show and that, of course, is half the fun.

The celebrity spellers will also add a unique dimension to the show. Many of the guests come from local schools, so they will bring their own following and a distinctive air of competition to the proceedings. Guest spellers include St. Charles Catholic Assistant Principal Jeff Montz, East Ascension High teacher Cheri Levert, St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel, Lutcher High teacher Leslie Boucvalt, St. John Parish Sheriff-elect Mike Tregre, Riverside Academy Principal Perry DiCarlo, St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom and East St. John High Principal Patricia Triche.

The addition of the celebrity spellers has allowed the theater to give a little back to the community as well. Tickets for shows featuring local educators will be sold at their respective schools, and $2 from each ticket sold there will go toward that school. Additionally, students wearing their school colors to shows featuring someone from their school will receive free popcorn for the performance, according to Frederic.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” runs March 10, 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. and March 11 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for students and $10 for children.

For more information and a schedule of celebrity spellers, visit www.stjohn

St. John Theatre is located at 115 W. Fourth St. in Reserve.