Spelling Bee stings Meadowridge

School stages quirky Tony-award winning musical next week

(From front) Leaf Coneybear (Jerry Yang) attempts to spell a word during a rehearsal for  The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Meadowridge School

(From front) Leaf Coneybear (Jerry Yang) attempts to spell a word during a rehearsal for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Meadowridge School

Getting into character for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee requires a short trip back in time for the actors.

As Leaf Coneybear, the creative child of hippies, 15-year-old Jerry Yang regresses to age 10.

“It’s fun to play little kids,” says Yang, whose quirky on-stage persona fashions his own clothes and wears a bicycle helmet to shield his clumsy self against perpetual trips and bumps.

“I think kids are just so wild and so free. We get to just freak out, which is fun.”

Shedding high school teenage angst and tapping pre-teen energy has been equally liberating for Sarah Dugdale, who is Olive Ostrovsky in Meadowridge School’s production of the Tony-award winning musical.

The Spelling Bee is a hilarious tale of overachievers’ angst chronicling the experience of six adolescent outsiders vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime.

The show features the most unlikely of heroes: a quirky yet charming cast of “nerds” for whom a spelling bee is the one place where they can stand out and fit in at the same time.

Friendless and seeking a hug, Olive is a newcomer to competitive spelling. Her mother is in an ashram in India and her father is working late.

“Olive is in love with her dictionary,” says Dugdale, 15.

Playing 12-year-old, shy Olive has drawn her out of her shell.

“I guess I remember being 12,” Dugdale says with a shrug. “It’s hard to believe that you are not much older, but being 12 again has been fun.”

To craft Marcy Park’s mannerisms, Shermaine Lee has been watching fifth and sixth graders at school.

Marcy is the poster child for the over-achieving student, attends a Catholic school called “Our Lady of Intermittent Sorrows.” She is also not allowed to cry.

It’s only a vision of Jesus that allows Marcy to shed her perfection and misspell a word.

Not the perfect speller, words like quemquam and phylactery have entered Lee’s vocabulary.

But can she related to Marcy’s mania?

A little, says Lee.

“I’m like a very, very dimmed down version of Marcy,” she adds, with a laugh.

• The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee plays Meadowridge School, Wednesday, Feb. 16 to Saturday, Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 and $12. For tickets, call 604-467-4444, book in person at the school or online at www.meadowridge.bc.ca.

Cast & Crew

• Faran Mahboubi as William Barfeé

• Sarah Dugdale as Olive Ostrovsky

• Harrison Collett as Chip Tolentino

• Jerry Yang as Leaf Coneybear

• Maddison Ebner as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre

• Shermaine Lee as Marcy Park

Others: Harrison Collett, Stephanie Cramer, Janine de Klerk, Maddison Ebner, Alex Kwon, Ashwin Singh, Sam Weselowsk

Director: Rhys Clarke

Designer: Rhonda Laurie

Composer: David Noble

• For more photos, visit the photo gallery