“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" at St. Ambrose University -- November 10 through 13.

Thursday, November 10, through Sunday, November 13

St. Ambrose University's Galvin Fine Arts Center, 518 West Locust Street, Davenport IA

Lauded by the New York Times as “effortlessly endearing” and by Variety magazine as “enormously satisfying,” The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee serves as the first theatrical production in St. Ambrose University's 2022-23 season, the show's November 10 through 13 run sure to demonstrate why composer William Finn's celebrated 2005 musical comedy received two Tony Awards and enjoyed a Broadway run of 1,136 performances.

Finn's acclaimed musical focuses on an eclectic group of sixth-graders, each eager to win their local bee. Sweet and shy Olive brings her best friend – the dictionary – to watch her compete; bold and hyper-allergic William Barfée uses his “magic foot” to propel him to greatness; former champion Chip struggles with his burgeoning puberty; easily distracted Leaf is unconvinced that he’s smart enough to be a challenger; overachiever Marcy is disappointed by her constant successes; and politically aware Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre only wants to impress her gay dads. In hilarious, touching, and catchy songs – and alongside a great deal of improvisation and audience participation – the youthful spellers reveal their hopes, struggles, and passions as they make their way through the competition, resulting in a modern classic that Centerstage called "utterly hilarious, surprisingly warm, and almost criminally entertaining."

A fun and unusual aspect of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is that real audience members are invited on stage to compete in the spelling bee alongside the six young characters. (During the 2005 Tony Awards, former presidential candidate Al Sharpton competed.) Another amusing aspect of the show is that the official pronouncer provides ridiculous usage-in-a-sentence examples when asked to use words in a sentence, which the examples oftentimes improvised. For St. Ambrose's production, the pronouncer will be played by David Weaver, with the six young contestants portrayed by Julia Beltz (Marcy), Joseph Lasher (Chip) Caroline Sieren (Schwarzy), Peyton Reese (Olive), Ethan Windt (Leaf), and Zachary Weih (Barfee). Completed the production's gifted cast are Katie Link as former bee champ Rona, Charles Murphy as “comfort counselor” Mitch, and Elena Vallejo as the janitor and, in a cameo, Jesus Christ.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee runs in St. Ambrose University's Galvin Fine Arts Center November 10 through 13, with performances Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Admission is $10-20, and more information and tickets are available by calling (563)333-6251 and visiting SAU.edu/galvin.

Support the River Cities' Reader

Get 12 Reader issues mailed monthly for $48/year.

Old School Subscription for Your Support

Get the printed Reader edition mailed to you (or anyone you want) first-class for 12 months for $48.
$24 goes to postage and handling, $24 goes to keeping the doors open!

Click this link to Old School Subscribe now.

Help Keep the Reader Alive and Free Since '93!


"We're the River Cities' Reader, and we've kept the Quad Cities' only independently owned newspaper alive and free since 1993.

So please help the Reader keep going with your one-time, monthly, or annual support. With your financial support the Reader can continue providing uncensored, non-scripted, and independent journalism alongside the Quad Cities' area's most comprehensive cultural coverage." - Todd McGreevy, Publisher