I believe I went on Twitter yesterday and declared my love for Celia Keenan-Bolger, she of the many names that I tend to spell incorrectly. Celia starred in one of my all time favorite musicals, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. She played the most upbeat latch-key kid you've ever seen, Olive Ostrovsky. Her parents couldn't even bother to give her the money to participate in the county spelling bee, let alone be in the country to support their daughter's moment of glory. Olive sings the best song in the show, "The 'I Love You' Song"*, where she imagines her idealized parents finally declaring their love for her. This is particularly sad because even Olive knows that the vision could never be reality. It's spurred by the word "chimerical," meaning "highly unrealistic, wildly fanciful."
Spectacular. Never fails to make me cry.
One of the many unique aspects of Spelling Bee that made it so much fun was the audience participation. A randomly selected group of audience members were called up onto the stage to participate in the spelling bee. They were mocked mercilessly by the actor playing the spelling bee prompter. He would improve fake facts about their life, such as "Jenny is proud of her collection of 47 crystal unicorns" or "James is a master debater, polishing off his rebuttal in under a minute at last week's state championship." The cast would also pull them into choreography and then abandon them onstage.
In every performance, one speller would get an astonishing word right. This was typically the youngest and cutest of the participants called up onstage. While I like to imagine anyone with a brain would know the situation was rigged, Celia Keenan-Bolger reveals otherwise in this hilarious video in Seth Rudetsky's OBSESSED! series for Playbill.com.
Not to toot my own horn, but I figured that out during previews when that performance's adorable little kid didn't even come close to spelling his first big word correctly and was praised for it. Then he actually did spell his next two words correctly before he was cut off three letters into his fourth word.
But I digress. How sweet is Celia Keenan-Bolger? And talented, to boot. Her Eponine was fantastic.
And she was also the original performer in the challenging role of Clara in The Light in the Piazza. If you don't know the show, Clara is a young woman who is permanently stuck with the mindset of a child. She has severe memory problems and does not understand that running away with the first man who pays attention to her is not a dangerous situation. It's a great character and she helped shape it before stepping down for Spelling Bee.
I can't wait to see what Celia does next with her career. She's a talented young performer equally suited for comedy and drama.
*Which should absolutely be called "Chimerical (The 'I Love You' Song)" as its a much more worthy title of the beautiful haunting piece.