Sidesplitting spelling bee comes to ARCC stage

By Elyse Kaner
Staff Writer

If you’re looking for more than a few laughs, look no further than Anoka-Ramsey Community College Theater Department’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Shy Olive Ostrovsky (Nykeigh Larson) cuts loose, breaking the spelling bee rules in a moment of pandemonium at Anoka-Ramsey Community College’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Photo submitted

The musical comedy, rarely performed in this area, opens Feb. 3 and runs for five performances through Feb. 12.

“It’s one of the funniest musicals that have come out in recent memory,” said director Scott Ford.

Conceived by Rachael Sheinkin, the lively, interactive show features six oddball students competing in a big spelling showdown. Running the competition are adults with their own set of issues and equally as quirky as the kids.

ARCC student Nykeigh Larson plays Olive Ostrovsky, a shy, determined 11-year-old in the show, who spends a lot of time with herself and her best friend, a dictionary.

“It is unbelievably hilarious,” Larson said about the musical comedy. “It’s ridiculously laugh-out-loud funny.”

For Larson, 18, an Andover High School alum, it’s no easy task getting into the brain of a pre-teen and trying to figure out her reactions to certain situations. But she’s enjoying the role, nevertheless.

“You get to be a little more over the top than when you’re playing a teenager,” she said.

Case in point is one of the songs titled “Pandemonium,” a song in which the upper elementary and middle school-age kids are freaking out because, they feel, some of the words doled out in the spelling bee are more difficult than others. Unfair!

“They’re treating it like it’s the end of the world,” Larson said.

Larson, who has been acting since she was a child, appeared in Anoka-Ramsey’s “Anatomy of Gray” as June Muldoon last fall. Last year she acted as LouAnn Bates in “Book of Days” and Myrtle Mae Simmons in “Harvey.”

Other cast members from the area are: Jarome Smith, a Blaine High School graduate, in the role of Chip Tolentino; Autumn Sisson, Anoka High School graduate, in the role of Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere; and Jennifer Inderlee, a St. Francis High School grad, in the role of Rona Lisa Perretti.

All shows are at 7:30 p.m. with the exception of the Feb. 12 matinee, 2 p.m. Feb. 4 is alumni night. Tickets are $8. They are available at the college’s bookstore or at the door one hour before the performance. Tickets may also be purchased online at

The Coon Rapids Campus Performing Arts Center is at 11200 Mississippi Blvd.

For more information, visit or call 763-433-1100.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]