A group of former and current Staples High School actors will stage the musical comedy "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" this weekend to benefit the school's Best Buddies Club.
Performances are scheduled at the Toquet Hall Teen Center, 58 Post Road East, at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 12, and Saturday, July 13.
Best Buddies International is a nonprofit organization that matches volunteers in one-on-one relationships with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The show has been organized by two 2012 Staples graduates who were active in the club, according to a news release.
The Tony Award-winning "Spelling Bee" is the comic story of a group of socially awkward youngsters struggling with puberty and looking for purpose by competing in the county spelling bee. The bee is overseen by three quirky adults.
The musical opened on Broadway in 2005, was nominated for six Tony Awards and won two -- for best musical book (Rachel Sheinkin) and featured actor in a musical (Dan Fogler).
The Westport production was hatched by 2012 Staples graduates Gregg Bonti and Sami Schwaeber, both students at the University of Vermont majoring in early-childhood special education.
Bonti is directing nine actors in "Spelling Bee," and he said in the news release he chose the play because its message is that "it's OK to be different."
Schwaeber choreographed the show. She also plays the role of Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, the youngest of the six competitors and the most politically aware.
Bonti and Schwaeber both were members of the Staples Players theater group while students there, so the fundraiser for Best Buddies combines two of their interests.
Over the course of the spelling bee, Bonti said, the contestants "learn that it's OK to be different and that losing doesn't necessarily make you a loser.
"Best Buddies celebrates everybody's individuality and unique identity, while providing support in the form of friendship. This is something that the characters in `Spelling Bee' are to looking for."
Founded in 1989, Best Buddies has nearly 1,500 chapters at middle schools, high schools and colleges worldwide, according to its website.
Proceeds from the production will benefit parties and other events that the Staples Best Buddies Club hosts, Bonti said.
Tickets are $10 and will be available at the door.