Four rows of student faces and a sign for the Putnam County Spelling Bee

Students stage delightfully funny, Tony Award winning musical April 27 – 30

April 11, 2023
By: Andrea Binnick

Worcester State University’s Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) Department opens “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a delightfully funny, Tony-award winning musical with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 27 in Fuller Theater, located on the second floor of the Administration Building. The show continues at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 28 and Saturday, April 29, and concludes with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, April 30.

The charming comedy – complete with audience participation – tells the story of an eclectic crew of Middle School spellers searching to find themselves within a high school gymnasium.

“It is one of my absolute favorite musicals,” said Musical Director and Worcester State Visual and Performing Arts Professor Steve Gagliastro, a celebrated actor and musician who provides voice lessons at Worcester State and will offer students an opportunity to join a new a cappella ensemble, The Good Time Vocal Band, in Fall 2023. “No show has ever made me laugh out loud as much as ‘Spelling Bee’ does. William Finn’s wonderful score, the scripted/improvisational humor, our talented cast, designers, crew, and pit musicians create a perfect synergy.”

Tickets are $7 for students, $10 for seniors, and $15 for general admission. To purchase tickets online for the show, visit To purchase tickets in person, visit the Worcester State Student Center Information Desk or contact the VPA Box Office at 508-929-8843 or Tickets will also be available at the door.

Worcester State Theatre productions feature diverse styles that range from comedy to drama to tragedy, providing students with a variety of performance experience. The spring show reflects a trend that VPA faculty said they have been noticing among current students as they’ve expressed a growing interest in musical theatre.

“Spelling Bee is in our season because of our students,” said Theatre Professor Adam Zahler. “Last year I asked our first-year theatre students – the very first cohort in our new major – if they wanted to be involved in the choice of plays for this academic year. They were enthusiastic about the opportunity to make a recommendation to the faculty and staff. I was thrilled at how seriously they took the task: reading the plays, discussing, voting, and writing a formal proposal. Even more thrilling was how sound their choices were, and the department took both their recommendations: Spelling Bee and last semester’s Psycho Beach Party. Our second cohort has already submitted a proposal for next year, and I’m just as excited by their involvement.”

Kira Hawkridge, artist director of an experimental and avant-garde collaborative in Providence, RI called OUT LOUD Theatre, serves as guest director of VPA’s spring production.

“‘Spelling Bee’ represents a wonderful opportunity for Worcester State Theatre and the Visual and Performing Arts Department as we come to the conclusion of the second year of our theatre major,” said VPA Chair Sam O’Connell, Professor of Theatre and Interdisciplinary Arts. “In addition to working with our students, faculty, staff, and guest artists on the theatre area’s first musical in more than a decade, ‘Spelling Bee’ has also allowed for the interdisciplinary partnerships between our music and theatre programs that continue to guide our academic and artistic endeavors while also providing useful connections to the university’s Major Plus initiative.”

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” cast members and roles include:

  • Communication sciences and disorders major Kaylee Salatino ‘23 as Rona Lisa Perretti
  • Theatre major Samson Abdal-Khabir ‘23 as Vice Principal Douglas Panch
  • Biotechnology major Chukwudi Ezeala ‘24 as Mitch (of Mitch and Joanie)
  • Criminal justice major Alyssa Peppler ‘26 as Joanie (of Mitch and Joanie) and understudy for
    Panch and Chip
  • Communications major Liam Carmody ‘23 as William Morris Barfee
  • Theatre major Aiden Bourdeau ‘25 as Charlito “Chip” Tolentino
  • Communications major Ben Leibowitz ‘23 as Leaf Coneybear
  • Theatre major Delaney DeNorscia ‘25 as Logainne “Schwartzy” Schwartzandgrubenierre
  • Theatre major Chantel Elektra Gonzalez ‘25 as Marcy Park
  • Theatre and English Major Roan Testa ‘26 as Olive Ostrovsky
  • Psychology Major Ella Kreidler ‘25 is in the Ensemble and Understudy for Leaf and Olive
  • Communication sciences and disorders major Evelina Christensen ‘26 is in the ensemble and understudy for Marcy and Rona
  • Theatre major Victoria Torres ‘24 is in the ensemble and understudy for Logainne

VPA’s Bachelor of Arts in Theatre program immerses students in a 39-credit program of study that includes an extensive variety of theatre courses, performances, and other hands-on, lab-based experiences with productions such as “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI.


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