By David Markham
You probably wouldn’t guess that a musical about a pre-teen spelling bee would get called “a riotous ride,” “a fast-paced crowd pleaser,” “a delightful den of comedic genius,” and “an instant theatre patron favorite.”
But that’s the case for the first show of the Theatre in the Park’s 2023 season, which will take place indoors at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center.
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” begins March 10 and runs through March 26 at The Black Box Theatre inside JCAHC.
In the story, which is based on a winner of the Tony and the Drama Desk Awards for Best Book, an eclectic group of six mid-pubescents vie for the spelling championship of a lifetime. While candidly disclosing hilarious and touching stories from their home lives, the tweens spell their way through a series of (potentially made-up) words, hoping never to hear the soul-crushing, pout-inducing, life un-affirming "ding" of the bell that signals a spelling mistake. Six spellers enter; one speller leaves! At least the losers get a juice box.
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is Rated PG16 for mature themes and language, and will be presented 10 times. Each show will last about two hours with a 15-minute intermission. Evening performances beginning at 7:30 p.m. are planned for March 10, 11, 17, 18, 23, 24, and 25. Afternoon performances at 2 p.m. are planned for March 12, 19, 25, and 26.
With the exception of afternoon shows, tickets are $14 for children ages 10 and under, $15 for seniors 60 and older, and $17 for adults 11 to 59. Admission costs for afternoon shows are $12 for ages 10 and under, $13 for seniors 60 and older, and $15 for adults 11 and older.
Tickets are available online at www.theatreinthepark.org/purchase-arts-and-heritage-center-tickets, or can be purchased at JCAHC during regular hours.
The Black Box Theatre provides the Theatre in the Park with a year-round venue to supplement its outdoor summer productions during June, July, and August in Shawnee Mission Park. JCAHC is located at 8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park.
Outdoor summer productions for 2023 will include: Disney’s “Freaky Friday,” which is Rated G and on stage June 2 through 10; “Meet Me in St. Louis,” which is Rated G; on stage June 16 through 24; “13,” Rated PG, June 30 through July 8; “White Christmas,” Rated PG, July 14 through 22; and “Footloose,” Rated PG, July 28 through Aug. 5. The fall indoor production at The Black Box Theatre will be “Little Shop of Horrors,” which is Rated PG, and will take place Oct. 6 through 22. TIP’s December production at JCAHC will again be “Seussical the Musical,” which is Rated G, and will take place on Dec. 8 through 23.
Auditions for summer shows are planned for April 15 and 16, and will result in the casting of about 150 performers for this year’s shows. TIP holds open auditions, and no prior experience in theater is needed to audition. Audition information will be available in March, and is announced and posted on theatreinthepark.org and Facebook, and also sent out via the TIP e-newsletter, which you can sign up for at theatreinthepark.org.
For much more information about the Theatre in the Park and the 2023 season, go to theatreinthepark.org.