In 2013, the Hoboken High School Theatre Company performed one of their toughest shows yet. “Rent” – a story of love and love lost amidst the AIDS crisis in early ’90s New York City – was lauded both by audience members and, later, by the judges of the Paper Mill Playhouse’s statewide Rising Stars competition, seemingly paving the way for another heavy-hitting production from the high schoolers.
Alas, in the ongoing struggle between comedy and tragedy, it is often comedy which wins out.
Enter this year’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a raucous comedic take on a spelling competition that engulfs a community and eventually teaches its contestants more about themselves than about roots, syllables, and languages of origin.
After “Rent,” the company decided earlier this year to do away with convention and tackle what director Danielle Miller said is a task far tougher than evoking tears from audience members – this year, Hoboken High students have to make them laugh.
“It’s kind of a gateway musical. There’s nothing dark or tragic, everyone can enjoy it.” – Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks
The show is set to premier on Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium, 800 Clinton St.
Eclectic cast, eclectic characters
For the first time in the school’s history, the spring musical will include performances from seventh and eighth graders, as the high school welcomed middle schoolers this year. Thus, the musical’s cast is more diverse than with any previous productions, and each member of the cast matches the character they play perfectly.
“They’re all different but equally weird kids, and they come together in a weird way,” said Jazmin Vergara, a senior, who plays contestant Leaf Coneybear.
Tim Sykes, a junior who plays William Barfee, another contestant, said that students in the audience should be able to relate to the show’s eclectic cast.
“I think you could find every character in this show walking around Hoboken if you tried hard enough,” he said. “It’s relatable.”
And coming off of last year’s performance of “Rent,” “Putnam County Spelling Bee” will offer plenty of laughs for everyone.
“It’s kind of a gateway musical,” said Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks, a senior who plays Olive Ostrovsky. “There’s nothing dark or tragic, everyone can enjoy it.”
Additional performances of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will take place on Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 9 at 2 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door, and cost $7 for general admission, $5 for students, and $3 for seniors. The play’s musical direction was coordinated by Kristen Dziuba and the dancing was choreographed by Guinevere DiPiazza.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org