Ferndale musical sees kids enter ‘Putnam County Spelling Bee’

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published March 6, 2024

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 Zoe Frappier rehearses a scene for Ferndale Public Schools’ production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Zoe Frappier rehearses a scene for Ferndale Public Schools’ production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Lauren Miller rehearses a song for the musical.

Lauren Miller rehearses a song for the musical.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


FERNDALE — The next musical from the theater program at Ferndale High School and Ferndale Middle School will celebrate the world of spelling bees.

The program’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will be performed March 9-10 and March 15-17 at Ferndale High School, 881 Pinecrest Drive.

The musical centers around a colorful cast of kids competing in a spelling bee, and the characters will be performed by students from both the middle school and the high school.

“It’s very light, it’s family friendly, it’s very funny, it’s very character driven, which is one of the reasons I picked it,” said Kelly Komlen, the theater director at both schools. “The kids got to exercise and grow with their character-building skills and things like that. It fit the group of kids we have this year.”

Komlen felt the musical lent itself to the group of kids in the program, as it is youthful and one they’ve been trying to build back up since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We try, if possible, to pick something as kid-friendly as possible, because we like to do matinees for the elementary and the middle school, because it’s a fantastic way to build the program,” she said. “You know, kids sit in the audience and they watch what’s going on onstage, and they say, ‘I want to do that.’”

Cameron Meesseman, who acts in the musical as William Barfée, has been taking part in the program since he was in the sixth grade.

The 17-year-old senior from Ferndale said his favorite part about being in the plays has been the community he was introduced to and the friends he’s been able to make.

“I’m just close with a lot of people that (are) within the theater community at our school, and that’s really nice,” he said. “It’s really welcoming. I mean, I was 11 when I started, like, six years ago … and there’s all these high schoolers and there’s my sister — she’s the one who got me into it — and the high schoolers are really nice. They take you in immediately and it’s just this really welcoming and opening atmosphere that I tried to carry on myself, where I try to be close to the middle schoolers and be friends with them.”

The cast of the musical has been working hard over the last couple of months to get ready for the show’s bow on March 9.

Meesseman said he’s excited that he gets to have a big dance performance as part of one of his songs.

“My character is a very movement-focused character,” he said. “He’s basically always moving and he has a little dance solo in his song where he shows off, and all my characters in the past haven’t really had that. … A lot of my characters in the past in general have been, like, very quiet, reserved, closed-off characters, and this character is a little bit more on the mean side and it’s kind of fun to play someone that’s not like me.”

Komlen has seen firsthand the work the kids have been putting in to get ready for the first show and said they’re all “exceptionally talented, smart kids.”

“I’ve been working with kids and in theater, in the arts, for two decades now. I love it,” she said. “I’m a professional actor and director as well, but I equally enjoy doing it with kids and working with kids and teaching kids. It’s just so rewarding to watch them start at the beginning of rehearsals and watch how they grow throughout the process of rehearsals.”

Showtimes for the musical are 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 9; 3 p.m. Sunday, March 10; 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 15; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 16; and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 17.

Tickets cost $15 for adults, $10 for students and $10 for seniors.

To purchase tickets, visit onthestage.tickets/show/ferndale-high-school or buy them at the door.