‘Spelling Bee’ nears professional quality

  • Published : Jun 1, 2010 - 17:16
  • Updated : Jun 1, 2010 - 17:16
As a musical lover and a thorough supporter of community theater, while I was rooting for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and anticipated a lot of raw talent, I was skeptical of the amount of polish and finesse that it would actually be able to produce in such a short amount of time.

Last Friday I had the chance to see the Seoul Players’ first musical production during their Media Night presentation, the evening before the opening.

The show, directed by expat Margaret Whittum, far exceeded my expectations, nearing professional quality. Held at Roofers, a bar in Itaewon, I could’ve easily been in any of the numerous well-respected community theater spaces that I had frequented in Chicago. Korean friends that I went with said it was better than musicals they had paid upwards of 100,000 won to see.

“Spelling Bee” itself was hilarious and heartwarming. It also offered a chance for audience participation, adding another humorous dimension.

Of note, Lance Noe, as Leaf Coneybear, manages to make an over-the-top character both ridiculous and endearing at the same time. Kevin Brenneman, as vice principal Douglas Panch, was perhaps the unsung hero of the cast, with his excellent comic timing and deadpan delivery, reminiscent of a Christopher Guest mockumentary.

Additional cast members Lyle Bjorn Arnason, Mike McDonald, Amy Mihyang, Jessica Coyle, Amber Green, and Blake E. Bolan also give solid performances.

Although the entire ensemble was talented, if I had to pick a favorite, Jessica Lofbomm delivers an excellent performance as Olive Ostrovsky, a lonely girl whose best friend is her dictionary. In the beginning of the show, it may have been easy to overlook Lofbomm as each member of the cast shone in their own right, but Lofbomm’s clear soprano and heartfelt delivery was spot-on.

A critique: Some of the more powerful voices seemed to dominate and overpower some of the smaller voices in the cast, making the blend somewhat unbalanced.

Still, that aside, each member of the cast exhibited not only vocal prowess but skillful comic timing and a dedication to their characters’ idiosyncrasies.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will run until June 13 on weekends, Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. For reservations or more information, e-mail

For more information on events and life in Seoul, visit the Seoul Global Center’s unofficial blog

By Shannon Heit  (