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‘Spelling Bee’ taking Brooke Hills stage

June 16, 2011
From staff reports , The Herald-Star

WELLSBURG - The Brooke Hills Playhouse has announced the cast for its production of the Tony Award-winning musical comedy "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," which will be presented at 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday and June 23-25 and 2 p.m. June 26.

Reservations are available by calling the playhouse at (304) 737-3344.

The show is set in a school gymnasium and follows young spelling bee contestants as they cope with the contest and the perils of growing up. It was conceived by Rebecca Feldman, with music and lyrics by William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin and additional material by Jay Reis.

Article Photos

Kristen Stewart, from left, Bethany Snyder, Cliff Welch and Nick Oliveira rehearse for the Brooke Hills Playhouse production of the musical comedy “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” to be presented at 8 p.m. today through Sunday and June 23-25 and 2 p.m. June 26. For reservations and information, call (304) 737-3344. — Contributed

The original Broadway production won the 2005 Tony Awards for best book of a musical and best featured actor in a musical as well as nominations in four other categories. The off-Broadway production that preceded it won three Drama Desk Awards and two Lucille Lortel Awards.

The Brooke Hills Playhouse production is directed by veteran actor and director Russ Welch of Wellsburg, with musical direction by Bethany Snyder of Weirton, who was musical director for last year's playhouse production of "Godspell."

Piano accompaniment for the show will be provided by Roberta Fedoush of Weirton, who has been playing for Brooke Hills productions since high school.

Welch and Snyder announced a cast that features many faces familiar to area theater-goers, along with some relative newcomers in the roles of the middle-school-age contestants and their adult supervisors.

Musical director Bethany Snyder will play Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, the youngest and most politically astute competitor in the spelling bee. Snyder has acted in many local productions at the Brooke Hills Playhouse and Brooke High School.

Nick Oliveira of Wellsburg is cast as Leaf Coneybear, the second runner-up in his district, who became a contestant in the finals after the winner and first runner-up dropped out. Oliveira is a veteran of many Brooke High and Brooke Hills musical. He was last seen at Brooke Hills in "Godspell."

Kimberly Winters of Follansbee will portray Rona Lisa Peretti, the bee moderator and a former spelling champ herself. Winters was last seen at the Playhouse in "Anne of Green Gables.

Al Anglin of Follansbee will play the volatile vice Principal Douglas Panch, a man with serious anger-management issues who serves as the bee's judge. "Spelling Bee" marks Anglin's playhouse debut and his return to the stage for the first time since high school.

Kristen Stewart of Wellsburg is cast as Marcy Park, an overachieving parochial school student. Stewart has acted in productions at Brooke High and West Liberty University.

Cliff Welch of Wellsburg has been assigned the role of William Barfee, a finalist from last year's bee who has an unusual method of spelling words. Welch has been seen in a number of Brooke High and Brooke Hills productions.

Karli Snyder of Beech Bottom will portray Olive Ostrovsky, a shy latch-key kid with serious parental abandonment issues. Snyder is returning to the Playhouse stage after a five-year absence.

Jaccob Trifonoff of Steubenville has the part of Chip Tolentino, a Boy Scout and the bee's defending champion. Trifonoff has been seen in a number of productions at Steubenville High School and West Liberty University.

Director Russ Welch will play the part of Mitch Mahoney, the bee's "comfort counselor," who hands out juice boxes to defeated contestants. Mahoney "volunteered" for the job as part of the community service portion of his probation. Welch has acted and directed in many Playhouse productions as well as performing with other area theatre groups.

Cast members also will double in a number of minor roles throughout the show.

The Brooke Hills Playhouse 40th season will continue with J.M. Barrie's wise and witty ghost story, "Mary Rose" at 8 p.m. June 30, July 1-3 and 7-9, with at matinee at 2 p.m. July 10.

The season continues at 8 p.m. July 14-17 and 21-23 and 2 p.m. July 24 with Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's fractured fairy tale "Into the Woods," followed by Charles Morey's comedy "Laughing Stock," to be staged at 8 p.m. July 28-31 and Aug. 4-6 and 2 p.m. Aug. 7. The final show of the season will be "bf F?" an original play for young actors by Diana Mendel of Wellsburg, to be presented at 8 p.m. Aug. 11-14 and 18-20 and 2 p.m. Aug. 21.

The Brooke Hills Playhouse 40th season is sponsored by WTOV-TV and the Center of Music and Art. Show sponsors include the Wellsburg Kiwanis Club, Koppers Inc., Kwik King Food Stores, Main Street Bank and Brooke County Rotary Club.

New for this season, patrons may pay for their tickets with credit cards. For information, go to

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