A look into our spring productions


Mr. Ciocco

“25th annual Putnam county spelling pee” stage cast and crew

On the weekend of March 10, the Bernards Theater Department will be staging “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee!” This musical surrounds “a diverse group of quirky elementary students who find a common interest in spelling,” says Hope Kaczynski ‘23, who plays Rona Lisa Peretti, a previous spelling bee champion and new moderator, “They all have different reasons for competing, and throughout the show these said reasons come to light in a funny and playful way.”

BHS students have been working alongside returning play director Mr. Tomaino, as well as, Ms. Pietroluongo, Mr. Ciocco, and Mr. Lapine to perfect their performance. The team is quite dedicated to the show, as they attend rehearsals six days and about nineteen hours per week. The musical is “a culmination of individual stories of specific spellers,” denotes Mr. Tomaino, “so it’s really fun to see each one of them break out of their comfort zones and really put everything they have into the roles.” During rehearsals, cast members prepare their vocals, lines, choreography, and stage blocking, while the crew focuses on costume and prop creation, lighting, and sound design.

“Our rehearsals begin with a mindfulness exercise and physical warm up to ‘check in’ and guide students into a state of focus and finding presence in the space,” voices Ms. Pietroluongo, the show’s choreographer.

“Being present is key to performing,” Ms. Pietroluongo explains. The team then closes with a “check out” to reflect on what’s going well and what still needs work.

The cast and crew are reportedly ahead of schedule, progressing significantly with each rehearsal. “Everyone is doing an incredible job with memorization of lines, and the dance numbers continue to get smoother and smoother” says Corin DeStefano ‘23, playing the role of Doug Panch. “Once we really cement our music knowledge and connect it with the pit orchestra, we will be in perfect shape.”

Maddie Bozack ‘24, who plays Daniel Schwartz, further explains,”We know our stuff, now it’s time to polish it.”

Unique to this performance, the team has hinted at the opportunity for audience participation. Some members of the audience will be featured as spellers, giving the show an entirely new perspective and verifying “just how much detail the cast puts into their performance,” according to Mr. Ciocco, the show’s assistant director.

Due in part to the audience participation, the musical is heavily rooted in improvisation. This is an untapped style of theater for much of the cast, and “watching students become more comfortable with improv has been a fun and unique experience in comparison to more classic musicals,” expresses Ms. Pietroluongo.

The show will therefore be unlike many of those that audience members have seen in the past. Elianna Calicchio ‘25, playing the role of Carl Grubenierre, explains that “everything is so crazy and spontaneous that it keeps people on their toes.”

All of the students involved have suggested their love for the close-knit community that has come out of the production. They have grown so close, having fun both during and beyond rehearsals. Lighting designer, Aidan Kinsey ‘25, expresses that his favorite part about being involved in the musical is getting to work alongside an amazing cast and crew: “The effort they all put in is really remarkable and it’s an honor to produce a show with them.”

The musical presents a variety of quirky personalities that each have different motives for partaking in the spelling bee. Ms. Pietroluongo explains, “I think young people in this community will find it relatable to watch characters depicting tweens experience internal and external pressures to compete and succeed.”

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is gearing up to be one of the wittiest performances by the Bernards Theater Department to date. “You can expect banter, sentiment, comedy, and plenty of fun from the show!” says Nina Robles, who plays Olive’s mom and is a member of the ensemble.

The musical will run for three nights only–take time to support your fellow peers for lots of laughs and amazing vocals. You won’t want to miss it!