Are you ready for a spelling contest?

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

By Brandon LaChance, Editor
Posted 2/27/24

AMBOY – Most of the music, drama, and theater departments participants at Amboy High School were excited when they found out what play was going to be performed in the spring. 

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Are you ready for a spelling contest?

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”


AMBOY Most of the music, drama, and theater departments participants at Amboy High School were excited when they found out what play was going to be performed in the spring. 

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” although not the most known, had quite a few students excited.

“It’s a really funny production. I think everyone is going to enjoy it,” said junior Brooklyn Strub, who is in choir and has been involved in plays and musicals since 2018. “Some of the humor is very subtle. This way the adults can laugh and the iddy biddies won’t have a clue, but they’ll enjoy the show. Everyone will like the show.

“My role is of the youngest competitor who is in the spelling bee for the first time. All of us have our own ways of being eliminated from the spelling bee.

“It’s a lot of fun. If people are thinking about trying out for a play, they should go for it. It brings a lot of people together. We have people who are also in FFA, scholastic bowl, year book, cheer leading, and other sports. It brings all different kinds of people together to perform.”

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will come to the stage at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 10 in the AHS Auditorium.

Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door.

The cast includes (student before character): Cooper Whitney as Chip Tolentinio, Strub as Logainne Schwartz, Austin Shugars as Leaf Coneybear, Logan Ketchum as William Barfee, Natalie Pratt as Marcy Park, Kai Vaupel as Olive Ostrovsky, Emma Dinges as Rona Lisa Peretti, Aaron Costner as Douglas Panch, and Carli Grennan as Michelle Mahoney.

In the pit are Kathy Mekeel and Gloria Parker playing flute, Rylyn Karrow on clarinet, Ayla Costner and Jasmine Rhodenbaugh on alto saxophone, Avery Kerly playing cello, Gage Mumm on percussion, Chase Huggins manning the drum set, and Janel Stahr on the piano/synthesizer.

Lainey Davis is the show’s stage manager, Henry Nichols is the sound engineer, Alexandria Shepard is the light engineer, and Hope Lauzon and Kayla Oury are in charge of the spot lights.

Amy Schwamberger, the music director at Central Elementary School, is directing the spelling bee.

“One of the harder aspects of picking a musical is that we have to base it around our small numbers,” said Schwamberger, who is directing her fifth production, has been the Central music teacher for five years, and has been with the school for the last 11 years.

“This musical was ideal because we have nine in the onstage cast. Everyone who auditioned got in. We actually had to pull a few people as well. This is ideal because it’s a small cast and it’s fun to perform.

“We have nine leads. There isn’t a stand out character. Everyone has their own shining moment and song that’s just them. Everyone gets their due diligence. It’s nice for me as the director because it’s a nice balance. The whole focus isn’t one one actor/actress and everyone else is in the background.

“It has been nice for the freshman because they’re getting exposure and lines that they might not receive with a different show. They’re all front and center since there isn’t any background roles.”

Schwamberger didn’t think she would be a director until her son Kelton Schwamberger, a 2023 AHS graduate, was in every play Amboy showcased.Now, as a music teacher and director, she is intertwined like letters at a spelling bee.

“We started rehearsals on January 4, when we came back from Christmas break,” Schwamberger said. “Weather and canceled school days made things tricky, but our cast has worked on productions before and they really came together to help make up for those missed days. They stayed late, stayed longer, wanted to practice more pages than originally scheduled, and wanted to go further and further with the development of the musical.”

Whitney, a sophomore, isn’t involved in any music groups except for performing in musicals.

The trip to the Putnam County podium is in his ninth production.

“I think adults will get the jokes in this show more than previous productions because it has a little more adult humor,” Whitney said. “Even though we scripted some of it out so we can perform for younger kids also since we are in high school, the censored versions are still pretty funny.

“I play a jock who is not the brightest. My character’s development kind of gets in the way of the show, sort of speak. He sees a pretty girl in the audience and as the song says, ‘Gets an unfortunate distraction’. Although this isn’t a widely popular play, I think it’s one we can all agree on has a good meaning. It’s funny and there is a little bit of something for all audiences.”

While Schwamberger is handling her responsibilities, the AHS Band Director Travis Kemmerer is having fun with his as well.

“I take most of the musical responsibilities. We have one rehearsal a week where we’re in the choir room practicing singing,” Kemmerer said. “I also organize the pit with professional, alumni, and student musicians. Amy focuses more on the stage performance, props, and parents, where I focus on the music.

“The students were positive about the musical selection. There were actually a couple of them who have been asking to do ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ the last couple of years.”