May 1, 2018

‘Putnam Spelling Bee’ receives rave reviews

Anissa Peppersack in purple and Aleah Maki in one of the many hilarious scenes in the 'Putnam County Spelling Bee' musical.

Anissa Peppersack in purple and Aleah Maki in one of the many hilarious scenes in the 'Putnam County Spelling Bee' musical.

Duluth News Tribune calls musical 'H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S'

In 17 years of directing plays at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and 20 additional years in professional theatre, Professor Cathy Fank, Director of University Theatre, has never cancelled a show — until now. Opening night for UW-Superior’s spring musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” was scheduled for Friday, April 27, the day that the explosion at the Husky Oil Refinery in Superior rocked the community and the stage.

“Not only did we have to cancel our opening night performance, we couldn’t have our last scheduled rehearsal,” said Fank. “Our momentum and energy were up and then when the campus was evacuated, we had to go to Plan B.”

Plan B would mean that opening night would be delayed one day to Saturday, April 28, and there would only be time to run through a few musical numbers at 4:30 p.m. that day before the curtain opened on the high-energy comedic musical.

Obviously, Director Dr. Jeffrey Madison and the cast and crew of the lively production did an amazing job of regrouping and putting on a memorable performance as reviews from local theatre critics have been glowing.

Sheryl Jensen, entertainment critic for the Duluth News Tribune, wrote, “Director Jeffrey Madison had his musical cast of the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s ‘The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee’ ready to hit the stage running on Saturday night with an energetic and funny performance that charmed the audience.”

Two of the cast leads mentioned by Jensen were UW-Superior seniors and theatre majors Josh Smith, who plays William Morris Barfée, and Aleah Maki as Olive Ostrovsky.

“Surprisingly, this is the first time Josh and Aleah have been on stage together and they make an outstanding duo!” exclaimed Fank.

Unfortunately, when performances are cancelled or have to be rescheduled, attendance often declines and that was the case last weekend when so many people were affected by the crisis at the refinery. However, the University Theatre staff, crew and directors are hoping next weekend’s ticket sales will exceed expectations.

If Jensen’s critique headline is any indication — ‘Putnam Spelling Bee’ is H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S — this is one show people won’t want to miss.

“It’s been a heavy week for many people in this area,” said Fank. “This is an opportunity to come and laugh for a straight hour and a half.”

While the musical is great fun for most ages, it does contain some adult humor, innuendos and an expletive or two, which Jensen described as PG-13.

Upcoming shows include May 4-5 at 7:30 p.m. and May 6 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and non-UW-Superior students, $5 for students with a valid UW-Superior ID and $5 for groups of 10 or more. Tickets may be purchased at the Box Office in Holden Fine and Applied Arts Center at UW-Superior. Reservations can be made at (715) 394-8380 . If you need immediate assistance, please call the Department of Communicating Arts at (715) 394-8369 . The O. Gayle Manion Theatre is located in the Holden Fine and Applied Arts Center at 1805 Catlin Ave. in Superior.

Anissa Peppersack in purple and Aleah Maki in one of the many hilarious scenes in the 'Putnam County Spelling Bee' musical.

Anissa Peppersack in purple and Aleah Maki in one of the many hilarious scenes in the 'Putnam County Spelling Bee' musical.

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