When planning a season of shows for Urbana High School Theatre, director Tim Broeker sometimes thinks first about what audiences will love. For other shows, his primary goal is to challenge his student actors. And then there are some shows, like this year’s fall musical, that he expects will surpass both goals.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee might not be widely known by the general public, Broeker said, but audiences everywhere tend to fall for it—often returning to see it again the next night.
“It covers some very serious, real-life themes around families and growing up, but it’s also very witty in a way that really engages audiences,” Broeker said.
While the show’s humor will keep everyone engaged, four audience members at each performance will be drawn in on an entirely different level: They’ll be invited to join the cast on stage as characters for part of the show.
“The show is different for each performance, which gives it a really fresh feel and makes people want to come back,” explained Broeker.
It’s this unpredictable format that also gives UHS student actors the sort of challenge Broeker likes to see them rise to.
“This is the show that will really push them this season,” he said. “It’s somewhere between a scripted show and improv, so they have to think on their toes a lot more. They have to be ready for anything on stage, which takes a lot of skill.”
Broeker said the vocal music, under the direction of UHS’s new choir director Becky Park, is also very challenging. The show’s cast of 14 students will be joined on stage by one of two “mystery teachers” for each performance. Behind the scenes, the production is supported by a pit orchestra and a tech crew of over 30 students, led by UHS teacher Breanna Morton.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will be performed at 7:00 pm November 11 – 14 and at 2:30 pm on Sunday November 15. All performances will be in the Urbana High School Cobb Auditorium, 1002 S. Race Street. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults, and are available at the box office, which opens 30 minutes prior to each performance. Although most of the actors depict children on stage, the musical is not a children’s show, as it contains some adult innuendo.