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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Spelling Bee Review

From+left+to+right%3A+Christopher+Spencer%2C+Junior+Cius%2C+Kendra+White%2C+Francesca+Edouard%2C+Anna+Barr%2C+Brendan+Paine%2C+and+Alaine+Norcross
From left to right: Christopher Spencer, Junior Cius, Kendra White, Francesca Edouard, Anna Barr, Brendan Paine, and Alaine Norcross

April 17 marked the kickoff for UMass Boston’s staging of the Tony Award-Winning musical comedy, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” The opening performance was met with as much praise by the audience as it was fulfilling to those involved in the show and its production.

Every actor, without exception, owned their role and added their own personalized touch for authenticity. Among the more standout performances were those by Junior Cius, who played William Barfee, and Dave Jubinski, who played Mitch Mahoney.

The antics put on by Jubinski, who auditioned for the part back in February, had portions of the crowd nearly on the floor laughing. His portrayal of the large and intimidating Mahoney, an ex-convict who is fulfilling his community service as the “Official Comfort Counselor” was often flamboyant and always hilarious.

The character of William Barfee is most notable for his trademark “Magic Foot” spelling method. Cius, whose solid dancing skills are quite apparent, captured this role like no other by adding his own funky flare to the jig. When asked how much of his performance was based on the character and how much was his own spin, Cius replied, “50-50. The original character had more of a weird way about him and I emphasized the nasally sound [in his voice].”

Barfee has only one working nostril and is constantly correcting other people’s pronunciation of his name, leading him to assume a somewhat peevish manner in his interactions with others.

Cius goes on, “I incorporated a lot more dancing in the dance numbers. A lot of the actors that [have] played Barfee would write with their feet and I thought of it more as him trying to spell with his feet. I feel like Barfee is just a very confident guy that dances with his words as he spells them.”

When asked about how she felt about the outcome of the show, a flower bouquet-bearing Anna Barr, who plays the role of Marcy Park, stated, “It felt really good. There was a lot of energy on stage and I think that was reciprocated from the audience.”

When asked if, overall, she thought the she was a success, Barr replied, “Oh yeah! Yes! Especially when I came out and everyone was still laughing. I think as long as the audience had a good time and we got our story through, I think that it was a success.”

Barr, a sophomore at UMass Boston, played her character with as much spunk as is expected from her character, the goodie-two-shoes over-achiever Marcy, an accomplished athlete and musician who speaks six languages and has grown tired of always coming in first place.

The simple three-prop set for the one-act musical was beautifully lit by Steve Bearse, and designed by Anthony R. Phelps. The set comprised of a contestants’ bench, microphone/stand, and judges’ (played by Alaine Norcross and Mike Lucas) table.

Widespread praise by the audience, which reached close to 100 members, was given during and after the show. A.B. Galivo, a UMass Boston Theatre Arts major remarked, “It was 12 out of 10,” to which another student, David Vu, responded, “100 out of 10, what’re you talking about? That was epic. That was awesome.” Galivo then concluded, “I’d go see it again, any day of the week.”

The musical, ran just under two hours in duration, and was performed from Tuesday, April17 to Sunday, April 22 in the McCormack Theatre.