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Milpitas High to Produce First Musical

Auditions for "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" are scheduled for September 12 and 13.

Audiences familiar with drama productions at Milpitas High will get a special treat this fall–a show set to music.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee could be the first musical production at the high school, at least, from what the current teachers can remember.

The show boasts two Tony awards and a Grammy nomination. It enjoyed a run on Broadway from 2005 to 2008 before being widely produced across the country and eventually landing on the doorstep of Milpitas High.

“I have wanted to do Spelling Bee since the first time I saw it in San Francisco and waited rather impatiently for the rights to become available," said Kaila Schwartz, the high school drama director of ten years. 

"Once the rights were released, it was just a matter of waiting until I thought I had the right students,” she said.

Contrary to its title, the show isn't just about a spelling competition. 

“It's about a group of over-achievers on the cusp of puberty who learn that winning isn't everything and losing doesn't make you a failure," said Schwartz. "They also begin to learn how to navigate adolescence with some grace and dignity.”

The recent popularity of TV shows and movies such as Fox’s Glee and Disney’s High School Musical has helped renew interest in musical theater among teens.

“I hope we can do a musical here every year. I was at Dublin High School and did a musical there three years in a row, and they were in a similar situation - hadn't done a musical for a long time,” said English and Choir teacher Dan McQuigg, Spelling Bee’s musical director.

Auditions are scheduled for September 12 and 13 after school in room E-2. At the auditions, students will be asked to sing a song and tell a funny story.

The musical has a set of interweaving stories that involve past winners in love and former runner-ups determined to reach the promised land. With such an eccentric cast of characters, Schwartz and McQuigg are looking for the students' personalities to shine through during auditions.

A big turnout is expected at the auditions. McQuigg says he hopes to see the numbers grow in the future.

“I had such a great time in high school doing musicals," he said. "It changed my life, and made me want to become a performer. I hope to give these students some of the experience that I had when I was their age.”

Schwartz said, “Theatre is character building. It teaches you how to truly collaborate, how to balance commitments; theatre allows students to explore who they are by building compassion for others.”

“When you step into a different character, one that is completely unlike yourself, you get to see the world through that lens and that helps you to solidify the way in which you see the world yourself," she said.

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