The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Definition: A tongue-in-cheek musical spelling showdown of the unloved and undeterred spellers of Putnam County, each vying for first place and a trip to the National Bee in Washington, D.C.--including an eighth-grader who speaks six languages; a boy with an lamentable last name and a magic foot; a home-schooled ADHD prodigy with a gentle (if distractible) disposition; an overzealous boy scout with an unfortunate problem with puberty; a middle-school political activist with a lisp and two dads; and a neglected wordsmith whose only friend is her oversized dictionary. The bee's hosts are a former Putnam champion and a vice-principal with a short temper and very little patience. Of course, this bee would not be complete without the court-assigned grief counselor whose quick hugs and apple juice can soothe any broken spirit. Every character shines in moments of transcendent joy and heartwrenching sadness, with such believable candor that anyone can relate to the seemingly silly struggles of these determined youth. With a complicated score and some fancy footwork, this musical comes together seamlessly; everyone onstage and in the audience leaves feeling like a winner. Use in a sentence: The Seattle Weekly theater critic had such an amazing time at this show, he insisted that everyone make the trek to the Ballard Underground. DYLAN SLADKY

Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 11 p.m.; Mon., Aug. 9, 8 p.m. Starts: July 15. Continues through Aug. 14, 2010

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