Putnam Spelling Bee cast

The cast of the Prior Lake Player's production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." Top from left to right: Justin Dekker, Prior Lake; AJ Lennartson, Prior Lake; Bretanne Ostberg, Prior Lake; Tyler Eliason, Bloomington; Lynnda Nelson, Prior Lake; Kellie Klein, Prior Lake; Adam Waldon, Lakeville. Bottom: Natalie Dulka, Minneapolis; Elizabeth Wolfe, Minneapolis; and Jessica Halverson, Plymouth.

Construction delays at Prior Lake's Twin Oaks Middle School meant the community's theater troupe found themselves without a stage and practice space less than a month before their latest show.

Thanks to some Shakopee hospitality and use of the Burnsville warehouse that produced Lizzo's inflatable booty for the recent MTV Video Music Awards, the Prior Lake Players are nonetheless eager and ready to put on the "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

For the first two weekends in October, the Players will bring audiences at Shakopee's West Middle School into a high-stakes, hilarious and musical world of county spelling bees.

Directed by Kay Dunning and Sheri Brunner, the show follows six pre-teens who compete head-to-head in their local bee. The characters share their personal hopes and fears while spelling their way through words like qaimaqam, capybara and omphaloskepsis. 

This is not your average "Rodgers and Hammerstein, surrey-with-the-fringe-on-top kind of musical," said Natalie Dulka, who plays straight-laced and high-performing Marcy Park in the show.

The adult-themed production brings audiences in to the mix, pulling three to four theatergoers on stage each night to spell their way along with the cast.

While not all of the cast members were bringing home blue ribbons for their spelling chops, their pubescent experiences help lend some honesty to their roles as kids on the brink of their teenage years. 

A.J. Lennartson said he pulled from his own life and the lives of his now 18- and 16-year-old children to become Leaf Coneybear, the show's free-spirited home schooled kid.

"Looking at how my kids acted when they were young and goofy," Lennartson said, "I kind of ... find bits and pieces and then kind of put it all together into into my own version of this character that is this awkward little 12-year-old that is super excited."

Residents looking for a night of laughs, spelling mistakes and truthful teenage moments can find more information on the show and ticket sales by visiting plplayers.org.

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