After its Broadway debut in 2005, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was nominated for a half dozen Tony awards (it won two of them), and quickly became a popular musical worldwide. It's toured America and has been produced in, among other places, Hong Kong, Oslo, Mexico City, and Jerusalem. So when the members of Sam Bass Theatre had a chance to put the show on in Round Rock, they jumped at the chance.
"What's really great about Putnam County," says Sam Bass board president Brett Weaver, "is that you have the laugh moments and you have the serious stuff, and it goes back and forth [between] really funny, silly dances and then really serious internal dialogues."
The musical is set during a Middle School spelling bee, and centers on the three adults running the bee and the six kids competing in it. "It's not a kids' show," Weaver is quick to point out. The adolescent characters are all played by adults, including Weaver himself. The other members of the Sam Bass board felt Weaver was a natural fit to play twelve-year-old William Barfée.
"Well, those who know me understand," Weaver laughs. "They're like, 'Twelve year old? Sure. Shave off the beard. That'll be fine.'" At fifty, he's the oldest actor playing a kid in Putnam County, but finds it exceptionally easy to channel his inner twelve-year-old. "My wife was a little concerned about that," he jokes.
As is tradition for stagings of Putnam County, four of the early competitors in the bee will be audience volunteers. "It's audience interactive," Weaver says, "We'll have scouts and ask people... to do their best spelling." Along with the audience interactivity, there's a bit of room for improvisation in the show. "There's a lot of side impov that we're able to do, which is the other thing that drew to it," says Weaver. "And it's just funny."