Winters Mill Drama invites theater lovers out for a night of musical comedy and improv this weekend.
The high school’s production of the “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” will run at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, at Winters Mill High School, 560 Gorsuch Road, Westminster. A matinee show is planned at 2 p.m., Saturday.
The musical centers on a fictional spelling bee in which fifth grade students overcome adversity and act out prepubescent high jinks.
“It’s a fun show with great fifth grade antics,” said Winters Mill drama teacher and director Charles Rice.
Rice, in his second year at Winters Mill, said the school’s drama company is rebuilding after having lost many prominent players in last year’s senior class. Normally, the high school would stage one play in the fall and a musical production in the spring. This year, Rice made the decision to split the fall season into a smaller musical and a play, because he did not know how many students would audition.
The school will present the play “Noises Off” in the winter and the musical “Into the Woods” in the spring, he said.
“A lot of students couldn’t do the musical last year because of sports,” Rice said, “so we decided to a smaller musical and our play for the fall in winter so that everybody could participate.”
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Rice said he focuses on having fun and learning theatrical skills during high school drama productions at Winters Mill.
“There’s reading skills and there’s interpretation skills,” Rice said, “just tons of skills that students learn, and I treat the entire program as an educational experience.”
Rice said the show is set in an auditorium, which is an advantage because it makes set design easy.
“The lesson of the show is just be yourself and who you want to be,” Rice said. “Each character learns that a different way.”
Anything could happen come showtime at Winters Mill because the musical includes an improvised component. The actor who plays the vice principal during the show is also a member of the school’s improv troupe, and is a good fit for the role, since he has the most improvised scenes.
Volunteers from the audience were preselected to participate in the improvised scenes, Rice said, to ease the flow of getting participants onstage. Even though they were selected ahead of time, they will not know what will happen once they’re in the limelight.
Last spring’s musical at Winters Mill, “Footloose,” sold out the 800-seat auditorium for several nights. As of last week, about 300 tickets had been sold for this weekend’s shows, Rice said. Tickets are available online and will also be sold at the door.