The other night, a friend and I attended a showing of the Tony Award-winning musical comedy that just arrived in Toronto from off-Broadway: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The play tells the story of six students fiercely competing to be the champion speller in a spelling bee. The back stories of each contestant, their names (one is Miss Schwartzandgrubenierre after her two fathers) and the words they have to spell give lots of opportunity for laughs. Funny moments also come because at each show, audience members can sign up to be one of four randomly chosen to play the role of a contestant. These guests are apparently counselled to ask for definitions or the word to be used in a sentence, which of course generates amusing lines. At the show I attended, one of the guests was clearly supposed to get a word wrong, but he spelled it correctly. He was immediately called back for another long and complicated word that began with “x” and was buzzed out the second he began with “z.”

No, I didn’t sign up!