The Spring Musical Returns to CUC After Four Years


Julian Perez

Evalynn Berg (left), Josie Brown (middle), and Omar Darwiche (right) rehearse for “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”.

Parker Kelley

For the first time since 2019, the spring musical is returning to the Bergmann Theatre stage with the CUC Department of Theater’s presentation of the “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

“It’s time,” said Mark Bernstein, director of this year’s spring musical and an adjunct professor of acting at CUC. “It’s been a really long time since they’ve done a musical here.”

Bernstein believes that putting on a musical performance at CUC has been long overdue. However, the reasoning for the delay was in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Theater during the pandemic was very difficult as there were a lot of online productions,” said Bernstein. “Now, people are starting to get hungry again for performing. The students are very excited.”

Bernstein has reason to be excited, as he believes this year’s cast shares his same passion for theater.

“When I was young, I got up in front of people and felt something magical happen,” said Bernstein. “It is such a gift to surround myself by people from Concordia that share and know that feeling.”

The musical centers around a spelling bee at Putnam County Middle School where six very unique kids compete in the bee that is run by three slightly strange adults.

“I like it because we can all relate to that time in adolescence when we are trying to find out who we really want to be,” said Bernstein. “The music is tremendous and the Concordia cast brings the story to life with just the right mix of comedy and sincerity.”

Freshman Rennette Woychowski plays Rona Lisa Peretti, a former three-time spelling bee champion who now hosts the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. When she is not assisting with the spelling bee, Peretti’s main job is selling real estate.

“Theater came in at a time when I wanted to be somebody else, and when you’re on stage, you physically are being someone else,” said Woychowski.

Not only is Woychowski performing in the musical, she aided Bernstein in choreographing the show. She also believes the actors and actresses each will bring different aspects to the show which will make it a great performance.

“Everyone has a different story,” said Woychowski. “As an actress, we can all have the same scene, but we’re all going to do it a different way because we all come from something different.”

The music and lyrics in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” were written by William Finn, and it originally premiered on Broadway in 2005. It was also turned into a book written by Rachel Sheinki, which won the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical. Dan Folger, who would later appear in the “Fantastic Beasts” series of movies set in the Harry Potter universe, also won a Tony for Best Actor for his performance as William Barfée in the musical.

One interesting aspect of the Broadway musical, which CUC is including in their edition, is that a couple audience members will be invited on stage during the performance to participate in a short segment of the spelling bee.

Freshman Evalynn Berg, who will be playing the character of William Barfée, understands the significance of the spring musical coming back to the school, and says that it is important for the theater to put together art.

“We need to make art one way or the other,” said Berg. “Just like how we need to eat, breathe, and be with other people, we have to make art.”

However, it’s not work all the time for the theater department. They, just like any other department on campus, like to have fun too.

“You have all these different people coming in, and they’re all different, but they are all here to make a show,” said senior Josh Zillinger. “We’re here to have a good time and to make a show.” Zillinger is a member of the technical crew that work behind the scenes to ensure that the musical runs smoothly. He was also a member of the first spring musical at CUC back in 2019.

Having people from all different kinds of backgrounds come together to make a show is what spurred Zillinger’s passion for theater.

“It all started in my freshman year of high school,” said Zillinger. “Since then, I have been a part of 14 musicals and plays.”

Bernstein is highly optimistic about this show because of the work ethic and passion displayed by the entire cast and crew in putting the musical together.

“You can have a great show, but if the people didn’t have a good time putting it together I don’t consider that a success,” said Bernstein. “If everyone brings their love to the process, it’s successful in every possible way.”

The first showings of the “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will be on Friday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 16 at 2:30 p.m. Three more shows will be held the following weekend on Friday, April 21, Saturday, April 22, and Sunday, April 23 with the same showtimes.