Home » The Arts Unplugged

MXO ‘The Arts Unplugged’: Broadway Veterans Lead Cast of CPH’s 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee!

12 April 2018 The Arts Unplugged No Comment

Cleveland Play House

Posted April 12th 2018


Cleveland Play House (CPH) is proud to announce the cast of the high-spirited, interactive musical comedy The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Broadway and TV actress Ali Stroker (Glee, Deaf West’s Production of Spring Awakening) joins Broadway veterans Kirsten Wyatt (Annie, Elf, Shrek), John Scherer (Sunset Boulevard, By Jeeves, Funny Girl), Lee Slobotkin, Chad Burris (both of Book of Mormon), Kay Trinidad Karns (Little Mermaid), and more in this laugh-out-loud musical directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge on the Allen Stage through May 6th. This production is sponsored by Huntington National Bank and Zinner & Co.

The musical’s storyline focuses on six middle-school misfits who are thrown into a cutthroat, high-stakes competition and P-A-N-D-E-M-O-N-I-U-M takes first place. Welcome to The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, where eccentric adolescents (all played by adults!) get their chance to shine as they vie to prove they are worthy of a shot at “Nationals.” A touching and cheeky coming-of-age comedy with a vivacious, improvised spelling bee, this Tony Award-winning musical is a treat for all ages. In a unique twist, four audience members are invited on stage to compete in the spelling bee alongside the six characters every night, including some special VIP guest spellers.

Spelling Bee premiered on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre in 2005 and closed in 2008, after over 1,100 performances. The show won the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical (Rachel Sheinkin) in 2005, and will win the heart of Cleveland audiences as it premieres on the CPH stage.

CPH has enlisted VIP guest spellers to celebrate the inspirational theme and Cleveland community. Notable spellers include a wide range of Cleveland figures such as; Betsy Kling (WKYC), Kenny Crumpton (WJW FOX 8), Tony Zarella (WOIO), Sean Richardson (President of Huntington National Bank Cleveland Region), and Howard Kass (Zinner & Co.). The complete list of VIP participants can be found at the end of this release. Audience members will also compete for a coveted spot as a guest speller, chosen from a mock spelling bee prior to the performance. CPH will begin auditioning interested guests when the Allen lobby opens 1 hour prior to the performance time, and will conclude 20 minutes before the start of the show.


“Cleveland Play House is delighted to be producing this hilarious show filled with fantastic music on the Allen Stage,” says CPH Artistic Director Laura Kepley. “This eccentric group of individuals living out their dreams is sure to win over the hearts of audiences. The improvisations within the production make the show different every night. Add to that our guest spellers including some special VIPs and you have a unique, thrilling, and hilarious night of theatre.”

Director Marcia Milgrom Dodge states, “Spelling Bee is really a show for all audiences because along the way, our little champions reveal their greatest fears and fantasies while learning something about acceptance, forgiveness, generosity, and community.”

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Cast

MARIAH BURKS (Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere) is overjoyed to be stepping back onto the CPH stage. She was last seen at CPH as the understudy for Sister Rosetta Tharpe/Marie Knight in Marie and Rosetta, Other CPH credits include: Shakespeare in Love and the New Ground Theatre Festival concert reading of The Nolan Williams Project. Mariah is a member of the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program class of 2018 where credits include Macbeth, Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses, Clybourne Park, and She Stoops to Conquer. Mariah is an alumna of Bowling Green State University with a BAC in Musical Theatre. Credits include: Spring Awakening, Legally Blonde, Book of Days, Urinetown: The Musical, and CHICAGO: The Musical. Recipient of the 2015 National Irene Ryan Scholarship Acting Award at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Washington, DC. Other regional theatre work includes Caroline, or Change at Tantrum Theatre. She couldn’t be more excited and humbled by this opportunity! Shout out to the class of 2018 for their love and support and her mother for being a Wonder Woman! Enjoy the show!

CHAD BURRIS (William Barfee) National Tour: The Book of Mormon (Elder Cunningham) Regional: Cape Playhouse, Arkansas Repertory. He can be seen on the series Bonding, on Blackpills.

GARFIELD HAMMONDS (Mitch Mahoney) was recently seen at Playhouse Square (State Theatre) with the Broadway National Tour of Motown, The Musical. A New York based actor, his notable credits include Kiss Me, Kate; Ragtime; Big River; Smokey Joe’s Café; and his debut in a play A Christmas Carol at Geva Theatre Center this past winter as Jacob Marley. Hammonds holds a master’s degree from University of Nevada, Las Vegas where he was awarded the Liberace Scholarship for music achievement. A regional winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council competition, Hammonds’ Operatic credits include La Traviata, L’Elisir d’Amor, Così Fan Tutte, La Cenerentola, and Porgy & Bess.

KAY TRINIDAD KARNS (Marcy Park) was in the Original Broadway Cast of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Her Off-Broadway credits include Diane in the Original New York cast of Bare: A Pop Opera, Roar of the Greasepaint (York Theatre). Regionally, Kay has performed in Spelling Bee as Marcy Park (Cape Playhouse), Little Shop Of Horrors as Ronette (Berkshire Theatre Group), Beauty and the Beast as a Silly Girl (The MUNY), Waterfall (The 5th Avenue Theatre and Pasadena Playhouse), the World Premiere of Allegiance as Wendy (The Old Globe), Bye Bye Birdie as Alice (Casa Mañana), The Children of Eden Concert as Aysha (The Kennedy Center), The King And I as Tuptim (Maltz Jupiter Theatre and Music Theatre of Wichita), Seussical on tour as Bird Girl, and in The Addams Family (The MUNY). kaytrinidad.com

ANDRES QUINTERO (Chip Tolentino) is very excited to play this dream role. National tours: Altar Boyz. International: Thriller Live (European tour). Regional/NY Theatre: Independence (La Jolla Playhouse), Giant (Signature Theatre, VA), Altar Boyz (Sacramento Music Circus), Temple of the Souls (Theatre for the New City), Greenwood Tree (NYMF). Film/TV: Law and Order SVU, Madam Secretary, Odd Mom Out, Gaymers, Romance and the Digital Age. Andres is a singer songwriter and a member of the Indie pop group Citizen Alien. Love to the familia and peluche. andresquinteroactor.com Insta: Andresquin21.

JOHN SCHERER (Vice Principal Douglas Panch) has appeared at CPH in Vonya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and Company. He starred in the Broadway and film versions of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s By Jeeves, written and directed by Sir Alan Ayckbourn. Other Broadway credits include Sunset Boulevard and Lovemusik, directed by Harold Prince. He also worked with Mr. Prince in the premiere of 3hree at the Ahmanson Theatre. His Off Broadway credits include Dames At Sea, Olympus On My Mind and Preppies. Other New York credits include The Most Happy Fella (NYC Opera) and Out of this World (City Center). He has toured nationally in 42nd Street, White Christmas, Cats and Mame. He won the Connecticut Critics Circle Award for his performance as George M at the Goodspeed Opera House, He most recently played Bobby Kennedy in The Great Society at the Arena Stage. Other regional credits include the Kennedy Center, Goodman Theatre, Paper Mill Playhouse and many others. Film and television credits include Spinniing Into Butter, The Shield, Crossing Jordan, Law and Order (all three series) and Titus. He is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University.

LEE SLOBOTKIN (Leaf Coneybear) recently made his Broadway debut as Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon, standing by for the role at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre as well as on the national tour. He is stoked to return to Putnam County after receiving a 2016 New York Innovative Theatre award nomination for his work as Leaf. Prior to the Bee, Lee toured the continent as Boq in Wicked, performed in concert with the Cincinnati Pops, the Philadelphia Orchestra, at Feinstein’s/54Below, and at the Kimmel Center with Broadway Dreams. Regional credits include Alex More in Buyer & Cellar; Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors; Mary Sunshine in Chicago; Eugene in Life Could Be A Dream; Barnaby in Hello, Dolly!; and the title role in Peter Pan. A Philadelphia native, Lee holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. LeeSlobotkin.com Instagram:@leeslo


ALI STROKER (Olive Ostrovsky) made her Broadway debut playing the role of Anna in Deaf West Theatre’s revival of Spring Awakening, making history as the first actor in a wheelchair to appear on the Broadway stage. Ali was a finalist on season two of The Glee Project, going on to play Artie’s love interest on the hit television series, GLEE. This year, Ali has guest starred on television’s Ten Day’s in the Valley (ABC), Lethal Weapon (FX), Drunk History (Comedy Central), and Instinct (CBS). In 2005, Ali became the first student in a wheelchair admitted to NYU’s Tisch’s drama program, earning her degree in 2009. Alongside her partner David Perlow, Ali co-founded the NYC-based company, ATTENTIONTheatre, committed to creating opportunities for artists with disabilities. Make your limitations your opportunities! Love to her home team, and to David! Follow @alistroker and visit alistroker.com & ATTENTIONTheatre.com

KIRSTEN WYATT (Rona Lisa Perretti) is happy to return to Cleveland where she was last seen as Miss Adelaide in Great Lakes Theater Festival’s production of Guys and Dolls. Broadway shows include Annie (Lily St. Regis); A Christmas Story the Musical (Crusty Elf/Mrs. Schwartz); Elf (Santa’s Elf); Shrek (Shoemaker’s Elf); Grease (Frenchy, 2007 revival); High Fidelity (Anna); The Pajama Game (Poopsie); Urinetown (Little Becky Two Shoes); and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Lucy/Sally standby). Other favorite shows include Born for This (Tammy Faye Bakker), Gypsy (Tessie Tura), Cabaret (Sally Bowles), Mame (Agnes Gooch), Sweet Charity (Charity), Legally Blonde (Paulette), and Peter Pan (Peter). You can also see her on DVD with the San Francisco Opera in Showboat as Ellie Mae. Kirsten’s TV credits include Blue Bloods, Naked Brothers Band, As the World Turns, and All My Children. Proud member of Actors Equity Association and graduate of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Creative Team

MARCIA MILGROM DODGE (Director/Choreographer) Her celebrated work on revivals, new musicals, and plays has been seen throughout the United States, Canada, Great Britain, South Korea, Denmark, and the Middle East.  Broadway: The acclaimed Kennedy Center production of Ragtime (2010 Tony® Award nomination and winner of the Helen Hayes Award.) Her New York and Tours include Curious George and Seussical (TheatreworksUSA), Ragtime (Phoenix Ent.), Cookin’ (Minetta Lane), Venus Flytrap (Active Theater), Radio Gals (Houseman), Maltby & Shire’s Closer Than Ever (original production) and William Finn’s Romance In Hard Times (The Public). Regional productions at Cleveland Play House (Ain’t Misbehavin’), The Muny, Maltz Jupiter Theatre, Drury Lane, Pioneer Theatre, Ford’s Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Cincinnati Playhousein the Park, Center Stage, St. Louis Rep, Denver Center, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, Glimmerglass Festival, Bay Street Theatre, Music Circus, Goodman Theatre, Lyric Stage, Goodspeed, Huntington Theatre, and Arena Stage. She’s directed abroad at The Nanta Theatre (Seoul, S. Korea); Fredericia Teater (Denmark); Royal Opera House (Muskat, Oman) and the Wintergardens Theatre (Blackpool, England).  Dodge’s work has won the Daytime Emmy, Los Angeles Drama Critics, Carbonell, Backstage Garland, Dora Mavor, Outer Critics Circle Awards and she has been nominated for the Astaire, Drama Desk, Drama League, Barrymore, Helen Hayes, Lortel, and Edgar Awards.  She is also a teacher, a wife, a mother, a proud executive board member of the Stage Directors & Choreographers Society, and a published and produced playwright. As always, for Tony, Natasha & CJ.

The Design Team for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee includes: MICHAEL SCHWEIKARDT (Scenic Designer), GAIL BALDONI (Costume Designer), MATTHEW RICHARDS (Lighting Designer), DAVID BULLARD (Sound Designer), SARIVA GOETZ (Music Supervisor), and JORDAN COOPER (Music Director/Conductor). The Stage Manager for this production is JOHN GODBOUT and the Assistant Stage Manager is TOM HUMES.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee VIP GUEST SPELLER LIST:

Saturday April 14th 7:30PM Nicole Marcellino (CAVS)

Sunday April 15th 6:30PM Arts Industry VIP Spellers

Tuesday April 17th 7:00pm Eric Hayes (LGBTQ Center)

Wednesday April 18th 7:30pm Downtown Cleveland Residents Association, Glenn Anderson (Q104)

Thursday April 19th 7:30pm Tami Brown (GM Cleveland Aquarium)

Friday April 20th 8:00pm Betsy Kling (WKYC)

Saturday April 21st 2:30pm Donna Dabbs (S.O.U.P.)

Saturday April 21st 7:30pm Sara Carnes (95.5 The Fish)

Sunday April 22nd 2:30pm Keith Kennedy (98.1 WKDD), Mark & Jim Busch (Busch Funeral Homes)

Tuesday April 24th 7:00pm Kenny Crumpton (WJW Fox 8)

Wednesday April 25th 7:30pm Drew Stelzer (Cleveland 2030)

Thursday April 26th 1:30pm Leta Obertacz (Cleveland Zoological Society)

Thursday April 26th 7:30pm Howard Kass (Zinner & Co.)

Friday April 27th 7:30pm Kirsten Ellenbogen (CEO Great Lakes Science Center)

Saturday April 28th 2:30pm Haz Matthews (93.1 WZAK)

Saturday April 28th 7:30pm Chef Matt Fish (Melt Restaurant)

Sunday April 29th 2:30pm Tony Zarella (WOIO)

Tuesday May 1st 7:00pm Chef Chris Hodges (Driftwood, Hodges)

Wednesday May 2nd 7:30pm Osupa Nia (MaxNOutEntertainment)

Thursday May 3rd 7:30pm Eileen Mcshea, Sean Richardson (Huntington)

Friday May 4th 7:30pm City Councilman Matt Zone

Saturday May 5th 2:30pm Senior Tour Group

Saturday May 5th 7:30pm Avery Friedman (CNN Analyst)

Sunday May 6th 2:30pm Connie Thackaberry (Literacy Coop)

Ticket Information

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will be performed in the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square April 14-May 6, 2018. Tickets range in price from $25-$110 each, $15 rush tickets for currently enrolled students under age 25 with valid student ID, and Young Professional discounts available with YP-CPH Membership. To order single tickets please call 216-241-6000 or visit clevelandplayhouse.com. Groups of 10+ save up to 50% off single ticket prices; call 216-400-7027.

Subscriptions: Subscribers save up to 17%. Flexible season packages available. To purchase subscriptions or get more information, call 216-400-7096 or visit clevelandplayhouse.com


CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE, founded in 1915 and recipient of the 2015 Regional Theatre Tony Award, is America’s first professional regional theatre. Throughout its rich history, CPH has remained dedicated to its mission to inspire, stimulate, and entertain diverse audiences across Northeast Ohio by producing plays and theatre education programs of the highest professional standards. CPH has produced more than 100 world and/or American premieres, and over its long history more than 12 million people have attended over 1,600 productions. Today, Cleveland Play House celebrates the beginning of its second century of service while performing in three state-of-the art venues at Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland. clevelandplayhouse.com

Cleveland Play House is made possible in part by state tax dollars allocated by the Ohio Legislature to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). The OAC is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Cleveland Play House is supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.

Have your say!

You must be logged in to post a comment.