So it was with high expectations (the same kinds the kids in the bee had) for an entertaining evening. We found it (consensus of four cynical women) that it rated a B-.
Catchy tunes, and a lot of charm. The bee involves six nerdy kids singing, dancing and spelling, as well as several local celebrities (none of whom I had ever heard of), showing off their spelling prowess. The locals get eliminated pretty quickly, but getting impossible-to-spell words. One guy actually spelled his correctly, bringing down the house, but was eliminated on the next one.
The cast includes the adults: Former spelling champ/realtor Rona Lisa Peretti and Vice Principal Panch, semi adult Mitch Mahoney, the comfort counselor, who is doing it for community service. Cold comfort and a cold juice box for those eliminated.
The kids are a nice assortment, from very young and precocious to high school Eagle Scout Chip Tolentino. Each kid's history comes out in introductions by Rona Peretti, as well as flashbacks and song and dance numbers. You have the fat science nerd, the girl whose mother is on an ashram in India, and whose father is MIA, at least as far as the spelling bee is concerned, the supertalented, type A Asian child, the girl with "two fathers", who control her and stress her ("nobody likes a loser"), and the kid who is sure he is not supposed to be in such illustrious company.
As stated, there are asides and opportunities to showcase each kid. Chip Tolentino is eliminated when he is called on after sitting in happy fantasy in the back row looking at another contestant's sister in the audience. Marigold is wearing a tight sweater. When pulled from his reverie to come to the mike, Eagle Scout Chip stalls, not wanting to present himself with a hard-on. He finally covers himself with his number board and goes to the mike, to get the word "tittup". He spells it correctly on the second try, but he had already passed the letters he wanted to change, apparently a fatal mistake, and he is eliminated.
He has plenty of stage (and aisle) time singing about his "unfortunate erection".
Each child shows vulnerability in the course of the bee, and some even become friends.
The music is pretty good, some of the background stuff is entertaining, some a bit bizarre, some of it had us laughing out loud.
It was fine. Not great, not awful. Not so good that I anticipate ever seeing it again. Like I said, the girls gave it a B-.
[Image from Playbill]