Hairspray Reviewed in this issue.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee America loves a winner — unless said winner is intelligent. If you're too smart, you're a dweeb. The seven children competing in the titular spelling bee are very intelligent winners, and very much social losers. But gathered together to compete against one another, each child discovers something about his or her individual weirdness that's worth treasuring. Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn celebrate the pariah in devastatingly funny songs. Scott Miller's production is exceptionally fine, exploiting the large laughs of the precociously confident William Barfeé (Nicholas Kelly), a mucously enhanced young man who lauds his magic spelling foot in a Busby Berkeley-esque fantasia (courtesy of choreographer Robin Michelle Berger). Miller just as deftly develops the quieter moments, such as parolee-cum-rules enforcer Mitch Mahoney (John Rhine), who sings of wanting to beat the children to teach them real pain, but instead hugs and comforts them. Because that's all anyone can do: Say "good job," and hope the vulnerable are resilient enough to take the punches when they come. Presented by New Line Theatre through August 8 at the Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road, Clayton. Tickets are $15 to $20 ($10 to $15 for students and seniors). Call 314-773-6526 or visit www.newlinetheatre.com. (PF)
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