Every student who has nervously stood before a crowd of onlookers at a spelling bee has his or her own quirky way of sounding out the words.
Some whisper it into their hands; others write it in the air. Others find ways that even the anxious crowd of supporters cannot detect.
But each ritual helps the contestant spell the word correctly. Each is a small reflection of his or her personality which can sometimes serve as entertainment in itself.
Bring on six peculiar spellers and three equally interesting adults and the stage is set for a humorous musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
The St. Charles Drama Department will present the show at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, May 2-4, and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 5, in the St. Charles Campus Theatre, 2012 E. Broad St in Bexley.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a one-act musical comedy conceived by Rebecca Feldman with music and lyrics by William Finn, and a book by Rachel Sheinkin. The show centers around a fictional spelling bee set in a geographically ambiguous Putnam Valley Middle School. Six eccentric adolescents compete in the bee, run by three equally eccentric grown-ups.
The 2005 Broadway production earned good reviews and was a box-office success. The show was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two, including Best Book. The show has spawned various other productions in the United States, including a national tour with performances in Canada and Australia.
"We wanted to do this for several years," said Robert Montgomery, the show's director. "And this year, it seemed to fit the students that are currently here. It just seemed like this was the right show to pick.
"We have a funny group of students here."
Playing on the eccentricities of the youngsters participating in the competition, the musical offers the audience many laughs -- including a little audience interaction before the show.
St. Charles senior Nick Turadian, who plays the young and enthusiastic Chip Tolentino, had never heard of the production.
"So I looked it up when I first heard it through the grapevine and I listened to some of the music. I thought, 'Wow, this is really going to be a fun show'."
In fact, all of the cast members have had a great time getting into character.
"I love this show so much," said Alison Roth, a senior from Dublin Coffman High School, who plays the shy Olive Ostrovsky. "I love the music -- it is so fun to sing. And the characters are so interesting. They are really compelling people."
St. Charles senior Evan Ryan plays one of the few adults in the show -- an ex-con hired as a "comfort counselor" for those eliminated from the bee.
"I start out a little rough around the edges then get better as the show goes on," he said.
"I see a little bit of myself in every eliminated speller."
So who among the cast actually participated in a spelling bee as a child?
St. Charles junior Carl Mahler, who plays the show's pronouncer, did. He participated as a third-grader and won.
Unfortunately, Turadian wasn't so lucky. He participated as a seventh-grader and made it to the finals.
"But a third-grader beat me. I think the word was olfactory."
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. For reservations, call the school at 614-252-6714.
Tickets will also be sold at the door prior to each performance while available.