Canyon Lakers to direct, star in TCHS production


Temescal Canyon High School Spotlight Players rehearse for their upcoming production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Photo provided by Tara Miller Abell

Temescal Canyon High School Spotlight Players invites Canyon Lakers to the production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” directed by Canyon Laker Tara Miller Abell and starring Canyon Lake students James Myers and Joey Frederick.

The remaining show dates are Apr. 26 and May 2, 3 and 4 at 7 p.m. at the Jeanie Corral Performing Arts Centre at Temescal Canyon High School, 28755 El Toro Rd., Lake Elsinore. Tickets cost $12 for adults, $8 for students.

Centering on a fictional spelling bee set in a geographically ambiguous Putnam Valley Middle School, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a hilarious tale of middle school-aged overachievers, their hopes, their dreams and their angst as they compete for a slot in the National Spelling Bee.

The six quirky adolescents compete in the spelling bee, run by three equally quirky grown-ups. They sing their stories, utilize unique spelling techniques and learn that losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser.

An unusual aspect of the show is that four real audience members are invited on stage to compete in the spelling bee alongside the six young characters.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” was nominated for six Tony awards, winning two, including Best Book. There are two licensed versions. The original, slightly bawdier rendition deals more directly with the inescapable fact that one of the young spelling bee contestants is facing the onset of puberty, with some embarrassing consequences. Temescal Canyon Spotlight Players opted for the milder version, which deals with the character’s dilemma a little more discreetly. This version would probably be rated PG-13 for a small amount of language and subject matter; however, this show provides a giggly good time, appropriate for almost every age.

The Temescal Canyon Spotlight Players usually open on a Thursday night and have subsequent Friday and Saturday night performances; however, this year, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” will open on Wednesday, Apr. 24, followed by Thursday and Friday night performances as to avoid conflicting with Temescal Canyon High School’s prom that Saturday.

The cast includes Sawyer Sliker as Chip Tolentino, Vanessa Martinez as Logainne Schwartzandgrubeniere, Joey Fredrick as Leaf Coneybear, Dominic Archibeque as William Barfee, Leanna Bagby as Marcy Park, Kristin Garcia as Olive Ostrovsky, Liz Mac Murray as Rona Lisa Peretti, Angelo Zapata as Douglas Panch, James Myers as Mitch Mahoney and Alex Drajec as special guest.

The artistic team includes Tara Miller Abell as director, Skylar Dorvall as stage manager and Rachel Maldonado as graphic design artist.

Although this is only Tara’s second year back at TCHS, the TCHS theater is like an old friend to her. She opened the theater as a student in 1999, performing in its inaugural production. She began directing as a TCHS student and went on to major in musical theater. Anyone who has lived in the area in the last thirty years is more than likely familiar with her credits as a performer.

Tara’s directorial work at TCHS includes “The Outsiders,” “South Pacific,” “The Uninvited,” “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “RENT,” “Peter Pan” and “You Can’t Spell Slaughter Without Laughter,” to name a few.