University City

'Spelling Bee' is holiday candy

Classwork doesn't have to be so serious.

Director Jill Bloede sees the UNC Charlotte theater department's production of "The Putnam County Spelling Bee" as a sweet treat for the audience, at the perfect time of year.

"It's holiday candy," Bloede said of the musical comedy, which steps into the world of bookworms. "It's fun, light, contemporary and incredibly challenging vocally."

Confections have a way of disappearing quickly, and Bloede said that's also been true of tickets for this production of the Tony-award-winning show.

Performances continue through Wednesday.

Bloede said the nine-member cast and crew have been working on the show since August.

The cozy 85-seat theater brings the audience up close to the characters, whose personalities range from timid to tenacious.

The students sing, dance, wrinkle their faces and wring their hands to give life to the angst that fills the middle school gymnasium where author Rachel Sheinkin's six awkward, misfit students reach for victory and acceptance.

The script is witty, satirical and studded with playful moments. That gives the cast lots of room to play with childlike emotions, some adult themes and feelings that are rawer.

In the end, the story leaves the audience with the idea that winning isn't everything and missing a mark doesn't make you a loser.

"You'll walk away cheering for the underdogs - all of them," Bloede said.