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Spell it P-U-T-N-A-M

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | June 11, 2010 9:00 PM

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Matthew Wade's character, Leaf Coneybear, has a helmet strap malfunction while standing next to his fellow spelling bee contestants.

COEUR d'ALENE - Here's a few words Roger Welch used to describe "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" that opens Saturday.

Hilarious. Funny. Charming. Sweet.

"I think people are going to love it," he said.

Now, since Welch is the show's director and choreographer, he might not exactly be objective. But then again, since he has been the director at Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre since 1994, rest assured he knows entertainment. He knows what makes people laugh, what makes them cry, and what makes them come back for more.

"My job is to be the eyes, the voice of the piece, to collaborate with the artists to get the best performance out of them," he said. "But really, to be the audience before the audience gets here."

"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" opens Saturday and runs through June 26 at North Idaho College's Boswell Hall Schuler Performing Arts Center.

It is billed as a "hilarious tale of overachievers' angst chronicling the experience of six adolescent outsiders vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime. The show's Tony Award winning creative team has created the unlikeliest of hit musicals about the unlikeliest of heroes: a quirky yet charming cast of outsiders for whom a spelling bee is the one place where they can stand out and fit in at the same time. Learn that winning isn't everything and that losing doesn't necessarily make you a loser."

The show features a professional cast, including two locals, Laura Sable and Reed McColm.

Tickets are $39 for adults, $35 for seniors/students and $25 for children ages 6-12.

"For the talent on stage, that's a bargain," Welch said. "Our ticket prices are far below what you would be paying to see the same talent if you were in New York or Seattle. So we bring them to you at an affordable cost."

A ticket for a similar show in New York would run $100.

"For a little more than that, you can get four shows. It's important to us to keep the theater costs available to everybody," he said.

Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre will spend almost $1 million to produce four shows this season.

"It's a good bargain for the quality of entertainment they're getting," he said.

An added bonus with Spelling Bee: Locals get to participate.

Four volunteer spellers will be recruited each night from the audience. They won't know what word they're getting in advance, either, so they could spell their word wrong - or right.

Either way, the show will go on.

"That's the unknown element, but that's what makes it a lot of fun for the audience as well as us," Welch said.

He said that with about 5,000 subscribers and 40,000 people coming through their doors this year, Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre has a big economic impact on the area.

Welch enjoys his role in helping to make it all happen.

"I love being able to be a storyteller and to bring top quality professional theater to this area," he said. "I was saying it yesterday, I have the greatest job in the world. I live in a beautiful place and work with talented artists."

If you go

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” runs from June 12 to June 26 at North Idaho College’s Boswell Hall Schuler Performing Arts Center. Performances are on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. with matinee shows on Sundays at 2 p.m. Ticket prices: $39 for adults, $35 for seniors/students (with ID), and $25 for children (ages 6-12). Season tickets now on sale. Please visit or call the Box Office at (208) 769-7780 to purchase tickets.

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