How Putnam Came to “Bee”


Spartan Spotlight Players during a song. This photo was shot during the technical rehearsal, which helps the department make sure things are running smoothly before opening night.

It is the time of year that we take a step back and recognize the amazing talent living, breathing, and learning within these walls. The Francis Howell Central drama club has just closed the door on their first production of the year. “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” which was initially set to be performed in the spring of 2020 but unfortunately was halted due to COVID-19, it is a musical comedy about the pressure of being in the spelling bee and trying to live up to expectations, whether it’s the characters’ own expectations of themselves, or their family’s expectations of them. So, the big question is: Why would we go back to a play we have already tried to produce? 

Kimberley Harrison, the current drama director as of two years ago, has revealed that there were multiple choices for this production. 

“There were a lot of different options. Generally in the fall, we do a straight play, which is a non musical. And there was a musical I wanted to do, but there was a problem with it. So we were kind of throwing things back and forth. And in the fall, we need to have a smaller cast but we’re really looking for titles that are interest driving through the school, because if we do, you know, say ‘Our Town,’ we’re not going to get a lot of people coming to see it. So our goal right now is to have a large audience.” Harrison said.

For theater lovers, choosing a singular show to put on is like choosing a favorite color: impossible. However, when the drama club suggested doing ‘Putnam, Mrs. Harrison was all for it. 

“We had several shows we were interested in, actually, but it was pretty much this show and then something else, so there were only two on the table. And when this show kind of fell through, we decided that probably would be the best choice,” Harrison said. 

The choices were incredibly hard to come by. If it weren’t for members of the cast, Mrs. Harrison would’ve been debating the choice of a lifetime, or a semester. For avid lovers of theater, picking a production to replicate can be nearly impossible. 

“One of the seniors on the cast was in the original cast of Putnam County. And we just felt like we needed to firmly close the door on COVID. And have just kind of that closure of, okay, this is what was supposed to happen. They call it the show that never was. And everybody has this fondness for the show that never was, well, let’s give it the light of day. Let’s have it, perform it. Let’s do it. And then just kind of close that door on that era,” Harrison said. 

Senior Kaylee Wright is the only remaining member of the cast from 2020 and also choreographed the entire show. 

“I feel like I’m in a really unique position this year because I was the only freshman on the cast so I’m the only remaining member from the original cast. It’s a surreal experience. I finally feel like I’m closing a chapter that I didn’t realize I needed to close. And it’s honestly just like closure from COVID. One of the biggest things we lost during the past two-and-a-half years was being able to actually be a part of the arts and to share the arts with people and it’s finally coming back full swing,” Kaylee says. 

Sophomore Abby Myers was the student director of Putnam County and spent a lot of time working with the cast and crew. She had many favorite things about this play, but her favorite in particular has to do with the audience.

“I loved our last song before intermission with the comfort counselor because I just love the music and it’s when we say goodbye to our last audience volunteer. The cast goes down into the audience and says goodbye to them, and everyone just absolutely loves that.” Myers said.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is not only a hilarious and heartwarming performance, it is also the final kick to COVID from the drama department. This is where they slam the door, lock it tight, and move on to a new chapter.