With all the great shows coming our way, it would be impossible for me to talk to each and every cast and crew member, but two names from the cast of the Woodford Theatre's 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee caught my eye, and since they both appeared recently in the SummerFest musical extravaganza, Rent, I thought I'd ask one of my favorite couple of lambchops what they have to say about switching gears from one musical to another.
Nick Vannoy, you may recall was Tom Collins, the leader of the pack, so to speak, in Rent, and his closing words at the end of each performance will always be memorable as he spoke of those who are marginalized by society and especially by HIV. Nick is an excellent singer, but he also has a great interest in dance, as does his lady, Taylor Coriell, whose talent has graced many a great stage production over the past few years.
The Tony award winning 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a one act musical comedy conceived by Rebecca Feldman with music and lyrics by William Finn, a book by Rachel Sheinkin and additional material by Jay Reiss. The show centers around a fictional spelling bee set in a geographically ambiguous Putnam Valley Middle School. Six quirky adolescents compete in the Bee, run by three equally-quirky grown-ups.
The fun insanity is directed by Beth Kirchner, who is one of the finest our region has to offer. She does it all: writes, directs, composes - she's top notch and her productions show her meticulous attention to detail.
|Nick Vannoy watches in amazement as Emanuel Thomas Williams does a back flip (in heels, no less!) - from left to right, Johnny Dawson, Williams and Vannoy. Photo courtesy of Tom Eisenhauer Photography|
Nick says his role is that of William Barfee, who he describes as "a 12 year old with a rare mucus membrane disorder, who is an expert speller and has a 'magic' foot that he thinks helps him spell. He is highly combative with the other kids at the bee, because he is bullied by most kids himself. I saw the original cast do this show on Broadway, and I wanted to play this role because the guy I saw play Barf was astonishing. He captured the character really well and the part has a lot of singing and dance involved -- and he was great in all areas. I really wanted to play Barf because of the depth he has, the changes he undergoes in the play -- and the dance aspect. I rarely get to dance in shows, and in his big number, he dances the whole time!"
Vannoy has worked with Director Beth Kirchner only once before in the Lexington Shakespeare Festival in A Midsummer Nights Dream. Like all who have worked with Kirchner, he sings her praises. "She is a real pro, and the theatre company she's built (at Woodford) is a testament to her professionalism. Everyone on the staff, production team, volunteer board, and cast are complete professionals. It's the kind of place that attracts talent and keeps them coming back for every audition."
Asked what was the biggest challenge of doing the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, he pointed out that it was the unknown element of dealing with the audience volunteers. "We ask volunteers up on stage to try to spell with us and win the bee. So in any big musical number, we have to work around them because we don't know what they'll do."
Nick tells me his favorite line is when Logainne (played by Jan Hooker, who reportely steals the show) is preparing for the bee, and her two gay fathers are fighting over whether to give her a break from spelling and Carl dad says, 'We gotta build up her stamina, Carl.' Dan dad responds with "Don't talk to ME about stamina, Carl!!' Also, the definitions and uses in sentences of the spelling words will make you howl. The show is the funniest musical I've ever seen, and by far the best I've seen on Broadway or on tour."
Vannoy's favorite song is the I Love You Song, "because of its beauty and power in the midst of so much hilarity." He adds, "I hope you love the show. I think it's going to be very special."
Taylor Coriell is playing Olive Ostrovsky. "I auditioned for this show during production week for Rent, and I had actually been listening to the show and thinking I'd more likely be up for Rona since she has a more classical voice on the original cast recording. When I went in for callbacks, Olive was seeming more and more like a comfortable fit. I had just originally thought they would want more of a belter for the role, but I'm so glad to have gotten Olive. I've learned a lot from her."
Taylor has not worked with Beth before, "but I'd heard she was great, so I was excited to walk into auditions. From the moment I got there, the whole atmosphere was so exciting. It was the most professionally run audition and callback situation I've ever encountered in this area. The rehearsals have been such a treat, too. Beth is an absolute GEM! I love working with her. She is always so prepared and willing to hear our ideas, which is great for this show in particular. It has been so refreshing to be there, working in such a professional setting with such great talent. The whole cast is fabulous. Beth and her team have done a great job. Jenny Fitzpatrick is a hugely talented choreographer and Meg Stohlman has been great with this music ... so many tight harmonies and energetic numbers to deal with. Overall, Beth and the Woodford County Theatre Association has made this experience all the better with their hard work and dedication to raising the bar for community theatre in this area to a professional standard."
|Taylor (right) is always smiling, it seems. This was taken just prior to the final performance of RENT as we watched SummerFest's glorious sunset.|
She agrees that the most challenging part of this show is the improv element. "Every performance requires 4 new audience volunteers, which means 4 people onstage every night who have no idea what's going on. It makes it very funny, but also hard to prepare for what those people bring to the ensemble every night. However, it also makes it new every night, which is something a performer should appreciate -- the show never loses its energy!"
Taylor loves the show so much, in fact, she was at a loss to select her fondest bit. "It's hard to choose a favorite line or moment... there are so many hilarious moments in the show! Panch and Rona were cracking us all up for the first few weeks. We've started to pull it together and not break when they do something unexpected, but sometimes they'll catch us off guard!"
Like Nick, she's particularly smitten with the same tune. "Personally, I love singing the I Love You Song ... talk about a beautiful piece of music -- I still can't believe I get to sing it every night. Each character in the show has at least one great character song that we all get to be a part of!! Also, I love the numbers that Olive has with Barfee toward the end of the show. The show is just so colorful and funny! I can't say much more about my favorite parts without giving a lot away ... so perhaps I should just say, come see the show and decide which part is your favorite part!"
With Taylor and Nick teaming up again, it will be my pleasure to take the lovely drive out to Versailles to see this show.
Taylor laughs, "Hmmmm a secret talent..... well it's not super crazy, but most people don't know that I was a figure skater for ten years. I still do it but not as regularly since I've been in college.... just not enough time or money :-( "
Nick Vannoy's secret gift is pretty cool, too: "I can make my voice sound like it's auto tuned by tapping my throat."
These two make music on stage as well as off - they are THE up-and-coming power couple of song and dance (and figure skating?) - can't wait to see them in this new show! What they bring to their performances cannot be defined in words, you just have to see and hear them, they are talent personified.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Directed by Beth Kirchner
September 17-19, 25, 26 & October 1-3, 2010
There is no performance on Friday, September 24th.
There will be two performances on Saturday, September 25th.
The Woodford Theatre
Falling Springs Arts & Recreational Center
275 Beasley Drive
Call 859.873.0648 to make your reservation!
see you at the show,