The 25th annual putnam county spelling bee

By John Nathan, March 4, 2011
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Donmar Warehouse, London WC2

There is a whiff of freak show as well as feel good about William Finn's shallow, very American musical. It is populated by cartoonish, teenage nerds who can all spell better than the spell-check on my computer. In the US, apparently, Jewish children do well at spelling competitions. A contestant here made the final only because two better qualified children had a batmitzvah to go to.

Jamie Lloyd's production is high-energy fun, though Rachel Sheinkin's book has little to reveal about pushy parents and how America stigmatises losers. Adults who take very young children might want to bring ear-muffs for the song about a contestant's erection, which is this otherwise enjoyable show's unfunny low point.

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    Last updated: 11:01am, March 4 2011