V-i-c-t-o-r-y eludes 25th Annual Spelling Bee cast despite “all superior” performance


Junior Eliza Renner steps up to the microphone to put her spelling skills to the test as her character, Olive.

The Southerner


As the lights dimmed, a hush filled the previously rambunctious crowd. Drama teacher and director Jake Dreiling took the stage to announce the usual pre-show spiel: no video or photography, please silence  all cell phones, etc. And with that, the 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee commenced.

Auditions for this musical, held in August, were limited to the Musical Theater class, and all rehearsals occurred during class. Dreiling said there was little time to prepare the show. There were 13 practices total, and the production was blocked (the process of mapping out movements and dance numbers) in only five of these sessions. The performances occurred on Oct. 18 and 19.

“You always want the performance to be the pinnacle of rehearsals, and [the cast] hit the timing perfectly,” Dreiling said.

This musical was the first exposure to Grady theatre for freshman Camille Williams.

“It was really good and so funny,” Williams said. “I’m sad that all the seniors are leaving. They’re great actors.” 

Seniors in the production included Lucy Bradley, Charlie Denton, Kelsey Hubbard, Morgan Jackson and Olatunde Richardson.

The show involved crowd participation from teachers, parents and younger children, featuring volunteers such as physics teacher Jeff Cramer and Latin teacher Scott Allen.

“Since I knew most of them, [participating in the show] was sort of just like being in class with them,” Cramer said. “The fact that I knew them made it more comfortable. I had a lot of fun. I loved doing it.”

Junior Allison Rapoport said her favorite part of the show was seeing Cramer perform on stage.

“I enjoyed [the show], it was hilarious and very interesting how it incorporated real audience members,” Rappaport said.

Junior Dazja Greer was cast in the musical as Mitch Mahoney, a male, ex-convict comfort counselor who was fulfilling her community service requirement.

“In getting ready to be Mitch, I copied any form of boy—gangster thug boys, I brought forth my dad, friends down the street. I took those and applied them to my character,” Greer said. 

On Oct. 20, the cast of the 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee participated in the Region 6AAAA One-Act Competition at Marist. In order to meet the requirements of the competition, the 85-90 minute musical had to be cut to under 55 minutes. Because of this, the cast had to learn two different versions of the show. 

After the results of the competition were released, Grady ended up in second place out of four teams.

“[The show] was not as polished as I would have liked,” Dreiling said. “But for the amount of time we had, it was one of the best things we’ve done.”

This is the third time Grady has participated in the competition in more than 15 years. For the past two years, Grady has won first place. 

“According to the scores, it was very close, but unfortunately our third win in a row eluded us,” Dreiling said in an email to Grady thespians. 

Dreiling said part of the let-down was not doing as well in this year’s competition as they did in past years.

“Winning two times in a row then getting second is obviously disappointing,” Dreiling said. “In some ways, it was better polished than the past two that won. In some ways, it was a better show.”

In the competition, Grady received all “superior” scores from the three judges—96, 93 and 93 out of a possible 100—the first time Grady has ever achieved this. In addition, sophomore Carter Guensler, who played William Barfee, received the award for Best Actor in the region, and junior Preston Choi, who played Vice Principal Douglas Panch, was selected as a member of the all-region cast.

“What’s fun is that I’ve seen Grady shows done previously, but it is not about comparing them with professional performances,” Cramer said. “I see how the kids perform on stage; they love what they’re doing.”

Decker D’Alesio, who plays Leaf Coneybear, the “underdog,” steadily approaches the microphone before singing “I’m not that smart.”
Junior Preston Choi as Vice Principal Douglas Panch reads sophomore Molly Gray the next word as she prepares to spell.
Junior Eliza Renner steps up to the microphone to put her spelling skills to the test as her character, Olive.

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