‘The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee’: an Exceptionally Performed Show

Riya Bathina, Staff Writer

The musical ‘The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee’ was recently performed at Issaquah High School, and it was utterly amazing to view. The musical revolves around eccentric yet competitive students fighting for their spot as the winner of the Putnam Spelling Bee. However, characters perform monologues throughout the show, interrupted by angelic and entertaining musical numbers. I adored this show for many reasons, as it had several elements to it. Humor, social commentary, and fantastic talent were presented to audience members throughout the show, making the viewing experience extremely enjoyable.

One character who was complicated was Olive. Throughout the story, Olive is a unique student from the batch of children; her competitiveness is apparent, yet she projects kindness and sunshine on everyone. We see her telling everyone that her parents will show up and pay the $25 fine that is required to enter the spelling bee, yet it is not until after the intermission that audience members start to understand how complicated Olive truly is. She is shown as a bubbly and intelligent kid with an intense obsession with dictionaries, but soon viewers find out that her parents were never going to show up on the show because they were, in fact neglectful of Olive. Olive is summoned to the microphone to spell her words, and light shines down on her as she looks up and prays for her parents’ love and longing. Olive then starts singing one of the most memorable songs of the night, the “I Love You” song. Olive can easily spell her words after this complicated and highly emotional song.

After the musical wraps up, viewers are told how each character lives. Although this is a cheerful and upbeat musical, the ending for Olive is exceptionally realistic. We are told that she still goes home to an empty house and no family but learns to let herself be loved by those around her, like her friends. This realistic ending is admirable because it is easy for viewers to wish for a happy conclusion to anything they watch, but this conclusion made audience members consider how only some get a picture-perfect finish. Another thing that this musical did exceptionally well is the portrayal of gay characters. The pride flag appears throughout the play, most notably when one of the first songs, ‘Pandemonium,’ is performed. In addition, the character of Jesus is shown as a gay man, and he is flamboyant, yet he is shown as just Jesus. This portrayal is valuable because although this prominent character is gay, he is still just Jesus, signaling to viewers that LGBTQ+ people are just like everyone else.

This musical required a lot of effort from all the cast members, and it is important to appreciate them and their work. Junior Zoe Iacomini, the actress who played Olive, says, “We started this project in December, and it showed in March. We put so much time into it, and many underestimate how much effort we put into acting.” A large musical with several amazing songs and dance numbers necessitates a significant amount of effort, and the amount that the cast puts in is remarkable. Overall, this was one of the best shows I have ever seen, and I encourage everyone to attend more shows put on by the Issaquah High School theatre department.