I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard at a play in years.
This was the 2011 season opener for the Beef & Boards, even if it was a couple days early, and the owners always like to kick the season off with something a little different from the usual musical theatre fare they present throughout the rest of the year.
When Patricia told me it was rated PG-13 for some “immodest humor,” I knew they had departed rather widely from their usual fare. And I knew I was in for a treat.
“Bee” is about six overachieving young tweens who face the pressures of competing in the Putnam County Spelling Bee, trying to overcome their own fears and insecurities.
The great thing about Bee, which I have never seen, is that they draw four audience members into the play as competitors. The idea is that they are meant to go out in the first half of the show with difficult spelling words. My friend, Elizabeth Musgrave, was one of the people asked to go up, as was Dustin, a 15-year-old high school kid who was sitting next to me.
The four audience members performed admirably, especially Elizabeth and Dustin, who also performed in a couple of the musical numbers (turns out Dustin is an actor in his high school theater), after the other two audience members went out on rather easy words.
My favorite dialogue happened between Vice Principal Panch, the pronouncer (the person who reads the words for the spellers), and Dustin’s first word.
“Your word is cow,” said Panch.
“Can I have a definition?” said the contestant.
“It’s a cow.”
“Can you use it in a sentence?”
“Please spell ‘cow.'”
But there was more to Dustin than met the eye too. Later, the word that was supposed to knock him out was “catterjune.” (I had to look it up.)
Dustin spelled it correctly (turns out Dustin was in the Spell Bowl in the 8th grade), and you could tell by the look of disgust on Panch’s face that he wasn’t supposed to. Panch grabbed a huge dictionary, picked a really hard word, and then dinged the bell when Dustin said his first wrong letter. The moment was priceless and one of my favorites in the whole show.
The other favorite moment was the song, “My Unfortunate Erection.” I have never been in a musical that used words like “erection” or. . . other, similar words, so this one immediately became one of my favorites.
While there are only a couple of moments where someone who has never ever heard people talk about puberty-related issues could be offended, the play is overall fairly clean and family friendly. But be warned: with that one song, “Bee” earned its PG-13 rating, and it is something you need to consider before you bring your kids. But if you’re an adult and can laugh about it, then it’s a play you need to see.
The show runs December 29, 30, and 31, and January 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29. Tickets run anywhere from $36 – $59, and can be purchased by calling the box office at (317) 872-9664.
Photo credit: Beef & Board Dinner Theatre