On Friday night I saw The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Portland Center Stage. Very funny. The inimitable Darius Pierce (I swear he's not a man, he's an army; he's in everything I see, it seems) and Suzannah Mars make a great team. The moments where Mars' character Rona Lisa Peretti blurts out her thrill over the cruelty of the game were great. The whole cast was really strong. It was a musical, and I can be funny about modern musicals, but the singing was all-around beautiful. I thought the staging--for the musical numbers and the non-musical parts--was very smart and nicely camp. A trampoline at one point was used in just the perfect way and just the perfect amount.
For me, the places where the pathos and tension worked best were the ones where they stayed in close with the competition. Also successful, I thought, was the device of including audience members in the spelling bee--something that could have been either a throw-away or annoying if not done well. The crowd contestants were even worked into a dance number at one point--artfully done and very funny.
Below is "Comfort Counselor" Mitch Mahoney (played by Gavin Gregory). Loads of pizzazz and a rockstar voice.