The extent to which you will like this show probably depends upon your tolerance for cutesy theatrics. A big hit in New York, “Spelling Bee” takes the template from “A Chorus Line” and fits it squarely on the heads of six would-be spelling champs, nerdy pre-teen division. It’s all a big goof, and intentionally so—from the hyper-nebbish assistant principal to the hyper-articulate kids (played by adult actors) sweating it out, word after word, and getting a few songs in, edgewise. The spellers all conform to various types, which is fun initially and then a bit numb-inducing as the show passes the one-hour mark—and there are forty-five minutes more to go. This sit-down version—producers hope ticket sales are robust enough to keep it here for a while—isn’t quite the price-gouging experience of, say, the latest incarnation of “Rent,” but even the smallish confines of the Drury Lane Theatre at Water Tower Place command a hefty tab, but you won’t feel gypped. Not a ringing endorsement, but there you have it. There are some notably funny performances here, especially Eric Roediger as William Barfee—“It’s Bar-FEY”—the nose-picking fat kid with the eccentric brand of hostility. In a weird way, he brings to mind Cartman from “South Park”: different voice and a little sweeter, but same vibe. On opening night, though, the best performance came from a hilarious young audience member pulled on stage. Pray they pick a goofy 14-year-old every time. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.