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Posted April 5, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Mystery, music and mayhem to headline area theaters this month

From left, Brandon Shockey plays William Barfee with Karen O'Connell, Josh Shelor, and Katherine Yacko in Wayside Theatre's production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." Rich Cooley/Daily

Don Denton, left, plays vice principal with Thomasin Savaiano as Rona Lisa Peretti in a rehearsal of Wayside Theatre's "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." Rich Cooley/Daily

Katherine Yacko plays Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre in Wayside Theatre's production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." Rich Cooley/Daily

By Josette Keelor

Theaters in Frederick and Shenandoah counties will offer everything from musicals to comedy and even murder this month, as Wayside Theatre finishes out its 2012/13 year, and The Schultz Theatre and Theatre Shenandoah gear up for a drama-packed spring.

Warner Crocker, artistic director at Wayside, assures "a walk down memory lane" in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," which runs from Saturday to April 27.

The story of several preteen students competing in a district level spelling bee, the one-act musical comedy is so funny it induces fits of laughter, said actor Don Denton, who plays one of the show's three adult roles.

The first time he saw it performed years ago, he said, he laughed until he cried.

"It is really something to behold," he said. In the role of the spelling bee word pronouncer, Denton said his character is "kind of thrown into it last minute."

Michael Quinichett's character is designated as the person who comforts students when they misspell words. He gives them a juice box, he said. It's part of his community service while on parole from prison.

Said Denton, "I think that is an absolutely not made-up thing. I mean, it's not always [someone] on parole."

Thomasin Savaiano plays the third adult role, spelling bee host and former winner -- the best thing ever to happen to her character, she said.

"[It's] an opportunity for kids to be amazing," Savaiano said. "I love doing the part because I totally understand what she's going through."

As the contestants, Leslie Putnam, Channing Frampton, Karen O'Connell, Joshua Shelor, Katherine Yacko and Brandon Shockey said they have some freedom to make their characters their own and many opportunities to ad lib.

Adding to the improvisation are four more roles that will be filled by different audience members at each performance. As fellow spelling bee contestants, Crocker said some might volunteer and others will be asked to perform, but all will progress through the spelling bee as they would in any real life situation. Their spelling skills will help them advance through the show, unscripted, and the actors will have to respond accordingly.

Originally on Broadway in 2005, the book by Rachel Sheinkin and music by William Finn have earned the play six Tony Award nominations and two wins, including Best Book.

Wayside Music Director Steve Przybylski explained, "When this show was originally created, it was an improvised show. It still retains that improvised looseness."

"And if they think they can spell," Quinichett said, "well, I challenge them to come [and try]"

"I think it's cool that we're doing this show," he said. "You really get to see [the characters'] humanity." The actors caution that material is PG-13, but add that the rating is on behalf of parents who might not know their kids have already heard what they'll hear in the show (strong language and sexual references).

The show is a deviation from the sort of shows Wayside normally does, Putnam said, but that's what makes it and the characters fun.

"Sometimes," she said, "they're not what you think they'll be."

Wayside Theatre in Middletown will perform "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" from April 6 to 27, with low-priced performances at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. April 6. Regular performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Ticket prices range from $25 to $30 for adults and $10 for children 17 and younger. There are discounts available for seniors, students and groups. For more information, call 540-869-1776 or visit waysidetheatre.org.

Schultz Theatre

The Schultz Theatre's murder mystery dinner comedy spoof "Trouble at the Tropicabana" will take place at the theater this weekend with food catered by Shaffer's Catering in Woodstock.

Written by Tony Schwartz and Marylou Ambrose and directed by Debbie Stevens and Joanne Thompson, the story is based on characters from the "I Love Lucy" television show. Characters Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel unite at Ricky's club where he's preparing to sign a contract with movie mogul heiress Celia B. DeMilio. But Celia might not be who she claims to be, and Lucy and Ethel might ruin Ricky's big chance for success when they apply another of their harebrained schemes to get into show business.

And then, of course, there's the murder to solve.

Performances will be at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets for dinner and a show are $30 for adults and $25 for students and seniors. For more information, call 540-740-9119 or visit schultztheatre.com.

Next up at The Schultz will be the musical "Hello, Dolly!," directed by Michael Gwin, with Brigetta Stewart doing choreography and Melanie Spalding designing costumes.

Based on the book by Michael Stewart, the story follows Dolly Levi's efforts to marry well-known half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder. Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman include well known musical numbers "Put On Your Sunday Clothes," "Before the Parade Passes By" and "Hello, Dolly!"

Performances will be at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 12 to 21. Tickets run between $10 and $12 for adults and $8 and $10 for students and seniors. For more information, call 540-740-9119 or visit schultztheatre.com.

Wayside Theatre

Wayside Theatre's Emerging Artist's production of William Shakespeare's "The Tempest" will take the stage at Barns of Rose Hill in Berryville on April 19 and 20.

The comedy of a sorcerer and rightful Duke of Milan, Prospero, and her daughter Miranda have been exiled on a tropical island for 12 years. But magic, whimsy and fun are about to overtake them when a ship of Prospero's enemies sails by her island, and she summons her faithful spirit-servant Ariel to conquer them with a storm.

Performances will be at 8 p.m. April 19 and at 2:30 and 8 p.m. April 20. Ticket prices are $15 for adults and $5 for students. For more information, call 540-955-2004 or visit barnsofrosehill.org.

Theatre Shenandoah

Finishing off April will be Theatre Shenandoah's bizarre and hilarious show tribute to low-grade science fiction films of the 1950s, "Devil Boys from Beyond," by Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliot.

Directed by Tyler Black, the play parodies movies that have become classic cable show fodder for shows like "Mystery Science Theater 3000."

After a UFO sighting, the ugly, fat and old male citizens of Lizard Lick, Fla., mysteriously have been replaced by handsome muscle boys. Two female reporters are out to scoop each other on the story to crack the case.

Performances will be at 7 p.m. April 26 and 27 and at 2 p.m. April 28. Tickets are $10 at the door. For more information, call 540-984-3972 or visit www.theatreshenandoah.org.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

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