STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
What is F-U-N? Theater! Especially when it’s “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” The one-act musical comedy, staged by the Bucks County Playhouse (BCP), focuses on six adolescents who want to be champion. Audience members will be invited on stage to compete with them. Are all the words actually words? Maybe. Do the losers get a juice box? You betcha. At least that’s some consolation.
In addition to the kids, there are quirky grown-ups, like vice principal Douglas Panch, played by Colin Hanlon. Fans of TV’s “Modern Family” will recognize him as Steven. He has been on Broadway and performed in other NYC and regional theaters. He’s active on Twitter @ColinHanlon.
Residents of Hatboro may recognize him as the boy who lived next door. Hanlon went to Upper Moreland High School and attended theater camp at BCP before taking off to New York to become a professional performer.
He’s spending a lot of his summer here at his mom and dad’s.
“My parents could not be happier,” he said in a telephone interview.
He’s happy he gets to perform in this show. He knows a lot of the actors who have done it in New York.
“Once opening night comes, I’ll be an official member of the bee club,” he said.
He’s also happy to be part of the club of Broadway actors – including Tyne Daly, Andrea McArdle, and Justin Guarini, among others – who have performed in shows since BCP reopened in 2012 (the theater, founded in 1939, had closed for a time).
“The Playhouse has had a resurgence,” he said. “It’s fun that people around this area can see the high caliber of talent that’s coming through.”
And VP Panch is so fun.
“He’s super dry. He’s funny, but doesn’t realize he’s funny,” Hanlon said. “He’s a little off-center.”
Hanlon thinks the show is really relatable.
“The only prior knowledge is hanging out with a child at one point in your life,” he said.
And it’s hilarious, since the kids (who are played by young adults) take the bee so seriously.
“If you’ve been clicking on TV and have seen the spelling bees, it’s exactly like that,” he said. “They’re so determined.”
Above all, “Spelling Bee” has heart.
“It’s a sweet show,” Hanlon said.
Alexander Fraser, BCP’s Producing Director, and his business partner Robyn Goodman originated the show in New York, so he’s happy it’s coming to BCP.
“It’s a show that we all love,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s youthful and a little silly.”
“Spelling Bee” is the next production in BCP’s season, which featured the Sondheim musical “Company” and the play “On Golden Pond” (the season concludes this December with “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play”). “Spelling Bee,” which is appropriate for teens and older, Fraser said, is a way to laugh and also to stay cool.
“What better way to get in from the hot summer than to see a fun musical?”
IF YOU GO
What: “The 25th
Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”
When: Aug. 14-Sept. 6
Where: Bucks County Playhouse, 70 S.
Main St., New Hope.
Tickets and Info.: Call (215) 862-2121 or visit www.bcptheater.org
Note: Valet parking available