City Paper is not for tourists
As if to prove the point, there’s a one-act tuner about a bunch of dorks playing across town for another few days, a slight but charming comedy that’s got more of the human spirit about it than Brewster Place does. It’s called The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee—let me guess, you’ve heard of it—and it’s basically adorable.
The plot’s simple: A mixed bag of kids, odd ducks all but each a preternaturally gifted speller, compete for the county title while learning valuable life lessons. Sounds perfectly dreadful, no? But William Finn’s songs and Rachel Sheinkin’s book are charming and witty in equal measure (and even naughty, to a lesser but not insignificant extent).
Best of all, it’s craftsman’s work, chock-full of tart one-liners and vivid little characterizations and scenes that actually go somewhere—just when you’d begun to despair that such a thing might still be possible.