Actors revisit their childhood as quirky characters (video)

Camille Doty

Feb. 8, 2012 at 6:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 8, 2012 at 8:09 p.m.

Leilani Valdes was bit early by the acting bug.

It has been 19 years since she first worked with Theatre Victoria in "Little Miss Sunshine."

On Friday evening at the theater on Main Street, the mother of three will play a child.

Valdes, who is a pathologist, will play Marcy Park, a sleep-deprived, private school student, in the "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

"From an early age, she's been taught to be an over-achiever and do the best," Valdes said of her character.

She added that people of any age can relate to pressure, whether it's external or internal.

Valdes and nine other cast members will act in the Tony Award-winning play. The musical involves six young people dealing with issues of puberty and adults who barely managed to escape childhood themselves.

These young, quirky characters try to win a spelling bee championship of a lifetime. To add to the spontaneity, four audience members are recruited to participate on stage as guest spellers.

John Michael Urbano said the play is hilarious with an ounce of truth.

"It's an example of children determined to succeed and seek approval," he said.

Urbano plays the obese, nasally-challenged, William Morris Barfee. The veteran actor said the spelling bee musical allows him to revisit a part of his childhood.

"It reminds me when girls were not seriously important," he said. "All I cared about was making my parents proud and my brothers miserable." He is the youngest of three.

Whitney Zangarine plays Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre.

Logainne is an opinionated 7-year-old with a strong understanding of right and wrong. She has two fathers, and, therefore, two last names.

Zangarine can relate to the character 17 years her junior.

"We can both be very focused and don't deal with change well," Zangarine said.

Brett Jones said he is the exact opposite of his character.

Charlito "Chip" Tolentino is a jock and Boy Scout.

Jones said he doesn't get into character. It's just natural for him to transform.

"I just do it, maybe overdo it," he said.

Jones said the energy of the play will have the crowd humming the songs when they leave the play.

"I already do," Valdes admitted.

Valdes, an Emory University alumna, is able to manage a career and acting with the support of her family. Having great castmates is an added bonus.

"It's such an honor to be on stage with such a talented cast," she said.

Valdes is a little nervous returning back to stage. It hasn't been just about the end, but the journey.

"They might not have me back, but it's been fun," she said jokingly.



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