URI Theatre to present “Putnam County Spelling Bee”

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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee


KINGSTON, R.I. –November 23, 2009 –The University of Rhode Island Department of Theatre will present the Rhode Island premiere of the musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in December.

While the title tells you the plot, the play is character driven. The six adolescents in the throes of puberty, overseen by grown-ups who barely managed to escape childhood themselves, learn that winning isn’t everything and that losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser. The play’s music and lyrics were written by William Finn and the book by Rachel Sheinkin.


Admission is $18 for the general public, $14 for senior citizens and URI faculty/staff and $12 for students. Tickets can be purchased by calling 401.874.5843 beginning November 23 or online at www.uri.edu/theatre.


The show’s Tony Award-winning creative team created the unlikeliest of musicals about the unlikeliest of heroes: a quirky yet charming cast of outsiders for whom a spelling bee is the one place where they can stand out and fit in at the same time. “The lovably, entirely adorable new musical….Spelling Bee is, in essence, A Chorus Line with pimples.” – The New York Times.


The play will be performed in the Robert E. Will Theatre, Fine Arts Center, 105 Upper College Road, Kingston Campus. It runs Dec. 3 through 5 and Dec. 10 through 12 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 at 2 p.m., and Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 at 3 p.m.


The Sunday, Dec. 12 performance is dedicated to the memory of Thomas R. Pezzullo, a former vice president for University Relations at URI and frequent actor who died in 1992 at the age of 49. All proceeds from that performance will go directly to the Thomas R. Pezzullo Memorial Scholarship Fund. The Theatre Department was pleased to award scholarships from the fund this year to Alyssa Opishinski of East Greenwich and Jennifer Michaels of Stonington, Conn.


ADDED ATTRACTION: To add to the enjoyment of the play, celebrity spellers will participate in the performances. Here’s the line-up so far:


Dec. 3: Tom Dougan, URI vice president for Student Affairs

Dec. 4: Marc Archambault and Leo Mainelli, URI Alumni

Dec. 5: Larry Bonoff, donor, former general manager of The Warwick

Musical Theatre “The Tent,’ and Barry Lieberman, Conductor of Wakefield Concert Band at 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 5: 2 p.m. – Frank O’Donnell, R.I. comedy legend as Santa Claus

Dec. 6: 3 p.m. – Charlie Hall of the Ocean State Follies

Dec. 10: Shawn Tempesta, co-host, The Rhode Show

Dec. 11: Thorr Bjorn, URI Director of Athletics
Brian Cardany, URI Head Coach of Athletic Bands

Will Martell, URI Men’s Basketball Team

Dec. 12: 2 p.m. – Alyssa Pezzullo, Grandaughter of the late Thomas R Pezzullo, former URI Vice President of University and Winnie Brownell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Dec. 12: 7:30 p.m. – Gene Valicenti from WJAR-TV10

Dec 13: 3 p.m. Karen Adams and Tony Petrarca, WPRI-TV12


Three audience members will be selected at each performance to go up on the stage and spell with the actors. Anyone interested in being considered as a speller should arrive early to fill out a card in the lobby. Audience members, says director McGlasson, should come with a sense of humor and competition.


Members of the casts, their characters, and hometowns are:


Cast A

Name, Character, Hometown

Andrew Burnap, Chip Tolentino, Wakefield

Autumn Gillette, Marcy Parks, Manchester, Mass.

Benjamin Grills, William Barfée, Ashaway

JonPaul Rainville, Leaf Coneybear, West Kingston

Betsy Rinaldi, Logan Schwartzandgrubenniere, Coventry

Ben Rose, Douglas Panch, Charlestown

Micah Tougas, Olive Ostrovsky, West Kingston

Kathyrn Travers, Rona Piretti, Franklin, Mass.

Kyle Viverito, Mitch Mahoney, Merrick, N.Y.


Cast B

Name, Character, Hometown

Jimmy Calitri, Mitch Mahoney, Wakefield

Cory Crew, Chip Tolentino, Putnam, N.Y.

Jesse Dufault, William Barfée, Narragansett

Melanie Kane, Rona Piretti, Exeter

Jennifer Michaels, Marcy Park, Stonington, Conn.

Stephanie Morgan, Olive Ostrovsky, Westfield, Mass.

Michael Puppi, Douglas Panch, Narragansett

Johnny Sederquist, Leaf Coneybear, Middleboro, Mass.

Talia Triangolo, Logan Schwartzandgrubenniere, Providence


Pictured above

University of Rhode Island students (clockwise)Autumn Gillette of Manchester, Mass., Andrew Burnap of Wakefield, Betsy Rinaldi of Coventry Benjamin M.S. Grills of Ashaway, and JonPaul Rainville of West Kingston star in URI’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The play will be performed in the Robert E. Will Theatre, Fine Arts Center, 105 Upper College Road, Kingston Campus. It runs Dec. 3 through 5, Dec. 10 through 12 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 at 2 p.m., Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 at 3 p.m. Admission is $18 for the general public, $14 for senior citizens and URI faculty/staff and $12 for students. Tickets can be purchased by calling 401.874.5843 or online at www.uri.edu/theatre. URI Theatre photo by Randy Osga