In Part Four of a series of interviews with the cast of Greenbelt Arts Center’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, meet Christa Kronser (playing Olive Ostrovsky), and Joey Rolandelli (playing William Morris Barfée).
Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you on local stages.
Christa: I’m Christa Kronser, playing Olive Ostrovsky. Most recently, I portrayed Laurey in MAD’s production of Oklahoma. This is my first time returning to the Greenbelt Arts Center’s stage since 2010’s Man of La Mancha. I’ve also appeared onstage with PGLT, 2nd Star Productions, LMP, and St. George’s Players.
Joey: My name is Joey Rolandelli. I am 26 years-old and this is my 4th show at Greenbelt Arts Center. I’ve acted all over the Baltimore/DC area, including at Spotlighters, Reisterstown Theatre Project, Archangel Players, and Liberty Showcase.
Why did you want to play Olive and Barfée in this Greenbelt Arts Center production?
Christa: Ever since I was introduced to the cast album, I’ve longed to sing “The I Love You Song” for an audience, instead of just belting it out alone in my car. Add an amazing cast, including many close friends, and this production is a dream come true.
Joey: Barfée has been a dream role of mine ever since I was introduced to this show back when it first premiered. I have auditioned for Spelling Bee and this role twice before but was never cast. So when I heard Jeff was directing it here at GAC and having worked with him before, I was all over it. And I’ve also worked with the majority of this cast before so I was really excited about working with them again as well.
How do you relate to your character? What do you admire about him or her?
Christa: The beauty of playing Olive is that EVERYONE can relate to her. She just wants her family to be a family, and everyone who watches the show can relate to that – not necessarily because everyone knows how she’s feeling, but they know WHY she’s feeling the way she feels. I love that about Olive. She feels everything so deeply, even though she is just a kid.
Joey: Barfée is very similar to how I was when I was that age in middle school. Kind of stand-offish, guarded, and defensive. But he’s also hoping (whether he knows it or not) for a genuine connection with someone, which I’m sure a lot of people have related too at some point in their lives. The thing I admire about Barfée is that he marches to the beat of his own drum and that he keeps moving forward through adversity. Plus I’ve learned spelling words out with your foot really can help!
How would you describe the music and the choreography for Spelling Bee?
Christa: The music in this show makes you laugh and tugs at your heartstrings – often in the same song! Our cast takes the complex harmonies and just knocks them right out of the park. Rikki Lacewell’s choreography is youthful and full of energy and it’s a joy to work with her and share her vision with the audience.
Joey: The music of Spelling Bee is so much fun. Each character gets their chance to shine with their own distinct songs The show features a gospel number and a dream ballet, along with your standard show tunes. And Rikki, our choreographer, has come up with dances and movement that enhance each musical moment. There’s a little bit of the Temptations, Michael Jackson, Girl Group and of course… pandemonium.
What was Director Jeffrey Lesniak’s vision of the show and his vision of your character when you first began rehearsals. Has it changed? And was there something new about his vision that surprised you or you found exciting to play?
Christa: To recognize Jeff’s vision of the show and its characters, you don’t need to look any further than the extraordinary group of talent he assembled. Jeff chose this fantastic cast of performers and gave us the freedom to play off of each other and give feedback to one another as we build relationships with our characters. Finding a relationship with Olive has been a challenge, as she is so complex and so vulnerable. I just hope I can do her justice!
Joey: This is my third time being directed by Jeff and the great thing is that he lets you bring your own vision and ideas to the character you’re playing and then works with you during the rehearsal process to fine tune the character. He wants you to make the character your own. So because of this my interpretation of Barfée was originally very closed off and solitary, but over time we’ve loosened him up and got him to interact more with the other spellers. Sort of like Barfée’s journey in the show itself.
Why do you think The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is popular with audiences? What message does it convey to theater goers?
Christa: The fun thing about this show is that regardless of whether you participated in spelling bees as a kid, every character in this show is so distinct and funny. You can be like, “Hey, I remember that kid!” or “Hey, I WAS that kid!” It’s a show that definitely takes you back to grade school, with some added adult humor.
Joey: I think Spelling Bee is so popular because the show is quick, funny, and irreverent. Plus members of the audience get to participate along with the cast every night in the bee, so each show is different. I think it also reminds us of the joy and the angst and everything that comes with being a kid.
What’s next for you on the stage or off?
Christa: I have a different kind of production coming up in the fall – I’m getting married! I promised my fiancé that I would spend the months before the wedding theater-free, so I’ll be itching to find a great show to audition for six months from now!
Joey: The weekend after Spelling Bee closes I can be seen as Mr Babcock in the Archangel Players’ production of Mame.
What is your favorite spelling word heard onstage in this Spelling Bee?
Christa: Omphaloskepsis. No matter which way you pronounce it, it’s just a fun word to say!
Joey: Qaimaqam. I like the sound of it. It’s not even one of my words.
Running Time: Two hours, with no intermission.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee plays from March 3 to 25, 2017, at Greenbelt Arts Center – 123 Centerway, in Greenbelt, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 441-8770, or purchase them online.
Meet the Cast of Greenbelt Arts Center’s ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’: Part One: Director Jeff Lesniak.
Meet the Cast of Greenbelt Arts Center’s ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’: Part Two: Pamela Northrup and Jim Adams.
Meet the Cast of Greenbelt Arts Center’s ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’: Part Three: Rachel Pino-Elliott and John Carter.