For high-stakes, palm-sweating tension, you can't beat the spelling bee. One slip of the tongue or an inopportune brain cramp and you're out. And when the unfortunate contestant has to sing a song before they leave the stage? Pure bliss. In Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn's effervescent musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a disparate group of middle schoolers spell their hearts out in the hope of winning a parent's approval, proving their own worth to themselves or to impress that special someone. Their individual obstacles include puberty, self-doubt and the distractingly bizarre word reader, Mr. Panch. It's a lot of fun, particularly when volunteers are called up from the audience to test their own spelling prowess. The Saint Louis University Theatre presents The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (February 22 through March 2), with a 2 p.m. performance on Sunday, March 3, at the University Theatre in Xavier Hall on SLU's campus (3733 West Pine Mall; 314-977-3327). Tickets are $10.
Fridays, Saturdays; Sun., March 3. Starts: Feb. 22. Continues through March 2, 2013

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