The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

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Dissonant is the word for this Broadway hit, now receiving its Chicago premiere from a local cast. The spelling-bee contestants inhabit a no-man's-land of age: the adults playing the kids, who unaccountably seem to range from 8 to 14, never come across as either flesh-and-blood nerdy grade-schoolers or witty adult takes on them. The setting is a homogenous small town, though audience-pandering jokes refer to Chicago. Worse, cartoonish characterizations by writers Rachel Sheinkin, William Finn, and Jay Reiss clash with attempts to tug at our heartstrings. Making up for all the weird disconnects, I guess, are the predictable parts: a monotonous contest format, racial and gender stereotypes, Finn's forgettable songs, and simplistic backstories and emotions. At this spelling bee, nobody wins. Open run: Tue 7:30 PM, Wed 2 and 7:30 PM, Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 2 and 8 PM, Sun 2 PM, Sun 4/16, 2 and 7 PM, Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut, 312-642-2000, $59.50-$69.50.

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