Patch of Blue Theatre Company are one of most professional youth groups I have ever had the pleasure of watching and their performance of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a charming one-act American musical comedy, was executed with skill, passion and overwhelming amounts of talent.
The story follows six young competitors taking part in a spelling bee final in Putnam County, accompanied by a female moderator and male judge. We are welcomed into the auditorium with a delightful pre-show where all the actors mingled within the audience, interacting with individuals, all completely improvised. From the snippets of what I heard, some of these young actors are also budding comedians as most of the audience was giggling before the show had even begun.
The whole production oozed professionalism and slickness. The band was on-point and consistent throughout and the constantly changing lighting and sound was faultless. It is rare to find a small cast such as this one, where everyone performs outstandingly. It is of course a blessing to work with such a clever and witty script and catchy songs, but Patch of Blue certainly did it justice. Each actor was totally immersed in their character; I assume the result of many hours of rehearsals and workshops has paid off, as everyone looked entirely comfortable and natural in the bizarre, caricatured parts. Special mention must go Tom Mackley playing William Barfée – a geeky young boy with a severe mucus problem and many allergies. The young actor carried off this part with complete commitment to facial expression, a throat full of phlegm, yet still managing to sustain some very impressive notes during songs. The joy of this show is that there was no weak link. I was felt totally at ease watching the production, the company made the audience feel completely secure even in the midst of harmonies and complicated choreography.
The sleek comic timing of every actor and the exciting element of selective audience interaction had everyone in hysterics for the majority of the show. However, these funny moments were beautifully contrasted with the odd poignant and sentimental parts, executed skillfully by the vulnerability of Ellie Mason who played Olive Ostrovsky, a shy girl whose best friend is her faithful dictionary.
This is a show not to be missed, filled with young raw talent, superb acting and topped off with the warm fuzzy feeling you want to have when leaving a musical. An un-BEE-lieavble triumph for Patch of Blue, they are a group to watch out for!