Characters Spell Success in Tony Winning Spoof

Leaf Coneybear, played by Daniel Jaramillo, is just one of the unique characters found in the PPP's upcoming show.

Leaf Coneybear, played by Daniel Jaramillo, is just one of the unique characters found in the PPP's upcoming show.

     There’s a science buff who spells using his “magic foot,” a middle school comfort counselor that acts more like a bouncer and an overly optimistic speller who only gets things right when thrown into a trance. These are just some of the oddball characters from the Poplar Pike Playhouse’s upcoming musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Directors sometimes cast roles based on shared characteristics. But for Playhouse director Kirie Walz, that was definitely not the case when casting the Germantown High School students in this show.

     “There are not too many people anywhere like the characters in “Spelling Bee,”' said Walz. “Taking on all the silly traits of the spellers and the adults in this show has been a fun experience for everyone in rehearsals.”

     One of the main characters in “Spelling Bee” is Chip Tolentino, a social and outgoing pre-teen who expects the best. He is the reigning spelling bee champion in Putnam County, but lately he’s been going through some “weird changes.” Chip, who’s played by senior Ben Taylor, dons his beloved boy scout uniform throughout the show.

     “I was also a boy scout, but I find myself to be very different from him,” says Taylor. “I don’t think I’m as outgoing as he is, but playing the role has been really fun so far!”

     Another unique speller coming to the PPP stage is Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere. Aside from a last name only a spelling enthusiast could love, Logainne is a sure-thinking neat freak with a very open awareness of the political issues of the day. Senior Kaylynn Coulter says she’s enjoyed getting into the mind of this character.

     “She’s a very strong and charismatic, and I love that about her,” says Kaylynn. “I think I’m kind of the same way, just not as over-the-top as Logainne.”

     William Barfée is a reserved character who hopes to win the spelling bee with the help of his trusty “magic foot” technique. Not much stands in his way (except his allergies, which always seem to act up at the wrong time). Maclean Mayers plays this spelling bee powerhouse whose last name is a constant source of humor. While Mayers differs from his character is all of the ways mentioned above, he’s found a key similarity.

     “I think I also somewhat resemble Barfée, we both have dry humors,” said Mayers. “He and I also share a common love of science.”

     Get in touch with your inner geek this fall when the Poplar Pike Playhouse presents The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Six overachieving oddballs compete under the bright lights of a middle school gymnasium for the title of regional spelling bee champion. But as the contestants (and even a few audience volunteers) misspell themselves out of the competition, these eccentric pre-teens discover more than just how to use Xerophthalmiology in a sentence. The New York Times called this Tony Award winning musical “irresistible.” The Washington Post declared it “The funniest thing on seven consonants.”

     The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee takes the Poplar Pike Playhouse stage October 16-25. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online at or by calling the box office at (901) 755-7775. The Poplar Pike Arts Guild will hold a special benefit performance on October 16. All proceeds from this performance will benefit the Creative and Performing Arts Department at Germantown High. This special performance will also include a complimentary intermission reception with the cast.

     The cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee includes Sydney Armstrong, Hayley Bardos, Kaylynn Coulter, Kennedy Harris, Raneem Imam, Dani Jaramillo, Jackie Kamin, Maclean Mayers, Arafat Quran, Jasmine Saulsberry and Ben Taylor. Kirie Walz is the director.

     The Poplar Pike Playhouse at Germantown High School presents a full season of theatrical productions from its 300-seat on-campus theatre facility. Since its inception is 1976, the PPP has presented more than 100 theatrical shows viewed by hundreds of thousands of patrons. The yearly roster of events includes two mainstage shows, several acting festivals and additional workshop productions. Students not only perform onstage, but are responsible for the technical and business aspects of operating this community theatre. Allison Long is the chair of the Germantown High School Fine Arts Department. Kirie Walz is the PPP managing director. Ashleigh Williams is the artistic director. The 2014-2015 student company managers are Arafat Quran and Taylor Shennett.