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  • Writer's pictureHans Ethan Carbonilla

You Can Be a ‘Guest Speller’ in this Year’s Gen Z Musical ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’

Have you ever pondered the idea of being a “gifted kid” when you were younger? Like winning in quiz bees and spelling competitions? If you’re searching for something to nurture your inner “gifted” child in a Filipino household, this interactive Gen Z musical comedy will unleash the “spelling bee” champion within you.

Y-E-S! For theater enthusiasts, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” needs no introduction. This Tony-winning classic has captivated audiences for years with its humor, characters, and relatable exploration of childhood pressures. 

This year, the production offers a fresh take on a beloved favorite.

F-U-L-L sensory experience

The Sandbox Collective is shaking things up for its 10th season opener with an innovative twist. They’re transforming the stage into a full sensory spectacle. Picture an elaborate game show-inspired set, purpose-built bleachers for the six contestants, and dynamic digital screens.

In a bid to offer a fully immersive experience, the production leverages state-of-the-art Samsung Neo QLed technology. Through strategically placed screens and cameras, audience members are transported into the heart of a live show taping, engaging all their senses.

Another aspect of the musical is the inclusion of “guest spellers.” During each performance, four audience members will have the opportunity to become part of the cast onstage, joining as fellow contestants in the spelling bee.

These advancements not only enhance the visual feast but also enable a deeper exploration of the characters’ inner worlds. 

An E-X-C-I-T-I-N-G collaboration

Directed by actor and educator Missy Maramara, this year’s production is in collaboration with ABS-CBN’s Star Magic and Teatro Kapamilya, with musical direction by Rony Fortich, bringing William Finn’s score, and choreography by Franco Ramos. 

And what’s a musical without the talents? The ensemble is a mix of theater newbies and familiar faces.

AC Bonifacio, alternating with Shanaia Gomez, portrays the talented Marcy Park, fluent in six languages, executing flawless cartwheels, and even playing the piano in reverse. 

Diego Aranda, with Luis Marcelo as an alternate, takes on the role of the amusingly awkward Chip Tolentino. 

Krystal Brimner, alternating with Angela Ken, shines as the humble yet dedicated dictionary enthusiast Olive Ostrovsky. 

Elian Dominguez, alongside Shaun Ocrisma as an alternate, earns laughs with his portrayal of the endearingly quirky Leaf Coneybear, the homeschooler with a heart of gold.

Becca Coates and Justine Narciso will share the role of Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, the youngest participant.

Rounding out the contestants will be Joshy Ramirez and Ron Balgos in the role of William Barfée, who has the magic foot where he would spell out each word with his foot. 

Other cast mates who will act as the “adult cast” include theater veterans Audie Gemora, Liesl Batucan, and Robbie Guevara and more Kapamilya talents Nyoy Volante and Jordan Andrews.

A R-E-L-A-T-A-B-L-E struggle

In essence, the “Spelling Bee” is still the rollicking comedy that celebrates the resilience, humor, and camaraderie found in the pursuit of victory. It follows six grade school kids with exceptional abilities competing for a spelling bee championship. Throughout the competition, the contestants face various challenges, including personal insecurities, family issues, and the pressures of academic success.

Beneath the surface, the musical delves into the mental health impact on children. This thematic depth aligns perfectly with The Sandbox Collective’s focus on mental health issues in their productions, reflecting their commitment to exploring themes of coming of age and self-discovery.

Learn more about this and might as well be one of the “guest spellers” at “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at Power Mac Center Spotlight Black Box Theater, Circuit Makati until March 17. 

Visit for tickets and more details.



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