An eclectic group of six mid-pubescents vie for the spelling championship of a lifetime. While candidly disclosing hilarious and touching stories from their home lives, the tweens spell their way through a series of (potentially made-up) words, hoping never to hear the soul-crushing, pout-inducing, life un-affirming "ding" of the bell that signals a spelling mistake. Six spellers enter; one speller leaves! At least the losers get a juice box.
Meet the Cast and Crew!
Alec Merrill (Will Barfee/Olive's dad) Alec is thrilled to be in this show! His recent credits include of Simon Starkweather in Murder's In The Heir and Mal Benike in Addams Family. He would like to thank Dan Ashlock and Abeth Spencer for this amazing opportunity! Break legs to both casts!
Baylee Horvath (Marcy Park) Baylee is 12 and making her Starlight Theater debut. Since age 6, Baylee has performed in over 25 musicals. Favorites: Annie (Annie), The Wizard of Oz (Dorothy), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Muzzy Van Hossmere), and James and the Giant Peach (Aunt Sponge) all of which earned her NYA Nominations. This year Baylee received national vocal recognition through Hal Leonard's singing competition placing 2nd in Musical Theater and 3rd in Classical. She’s thankful to Dan, Melody, Abeth and Elise as well as the entire cast to be back on stage doing what she loves.
Jessica Reed (Olive) Jesse is a 17-year-old junior at Boulder Creek High School. She has been doing shows with Starlight for 10 years, her most recent being Frozen Jr. (Elsa) and Starlight’s 24 hour musical Shrek Jr. (Fiona). You may also have seen Jessica around the valley as a vocal captain of ABT’s youth troupe, HyRev and onstage with her high school show choirs. Jesse is thrilled to be back onstage performing for a live audience and would like to thank the directors for all their hard work. Enjoy the show!
Jonah Cain (Chip Tolentino/Dan Dad/Jesus) Jonah is thrilled to return to the stage as Chip in Starlight Community Theater’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. He is honored to be working with such an amazing cast! Other show credits include E. Markley (Radium Girls), Kristoff (Frozen), and Willy Wonka (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). He would like to thank the direction team for this show for giving him this fantastic opportunity.
Katerina Anderson (Vice Principal Doris Panch) Katerina is thrilled to make her Starlight debut alongside this talented cast! Katerina’s love for the stage began at the age of 5 as a dancer and quickly evolved into a passion for singing and musical theatre. Among many roles she has played all over the valley, her favorite past performances include Nancy in They Chose Me (VYT), a Big Kid in Matilda (VYT), Peter Pan in Peter Pan (PCA) and Hendrika in Miracle on 34th Street (ABT). Katerina thanks everyone at Starlight for this opportunity to recreate the role of Vice Principal Panch and for keeping theater alive and safe during this unique time, Kelli and Renee for everything they do to train and mentor her, and her family for believing in her!
Kendra Goodenberger (Mitch Mahoney) Kendra is 16 years old and a junior in the honors program, as well as a member of the Thespian Troupe at Glendale High School. She has been performing on stage since age 3 and is a member of elite performance troupes: HyRev at ABT, and KidsAlive Teen at TheaterWorks. Favorite shows and roles of the more than 40 staged shows she’s been in include: Disney Beauty and the Beast (Mrs. Potts) TW, The Yellow Boat (Mother) GHS, Disney Alice in Wonderland (Queen of Hearts - NYA Winner) JCC, Into the Woods (Florinda) SYT, Willy Wonka (Mrs. Bucket) TW, Seussical the Musical (Gertrude) JCC, Disney Little Mermaid (Flounder) TW, and Disney Peter Pan (Michael Darling) TW. Thank you Dan for this opportunity to have my Starlight debut!!
Kiera Crouch (Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere) Kiera is thrilled to be a part of ‘Bee’! She is a valley performer, and a sophomore at Sandra Day O’Connor High School. Favorites roles include Emma in Emmetts Art Project (SYT), Tigger in Winnie the Pooh (TW), and Lauren in School of Rock (SYT, NYA nom). In her spare time, she plays keyboard in her band, None in a Million. Thank you to Dan and the whole cast and crew! Enjoy the show!
McKenzie Jessen (Rona Lisa Perretti/Olive's mom) McKenzie is beyond excited to be a part of this amazing cast of people, and return to the Starlight stage. She’s been a part of numerous productions here at starlight including Mamma Mia!, Addams Family and Murders in the Heir (Zoni Nomination). McKenzie wants to thank Starlight for all the opportunities it has given her over the past couple years. Enjoy the show!
Bear Golden (Mitch Mahoney/Dad Dad) Bear is incredibly excited to be in yet another Starlight show with this incredibly talented cast! He had been most recently seen in Starlight’s production of Dracula as Renfield, and Annie (Ensemble). He has also been seen around the valley in productions such as Carrie: The Musical (Stokes) at Brelby Theater Co., and Puffs (J. Finch-Fletchley et. all) at Scottsdale Desert Stages Theater (Zoni. Nom.) He is incredibly thankful to his friends and family for putting up with this “theater nonsense” and to his mother, who showed him the way to the stage.
Cathy Merrill (Vice Principal Doris Panch) Cathy is beyond excited to be back onstage after more than a year! This is Cathy's 3rd show at Starlight and she is currently a Member at Large on the theater's board. Previous shows here include Mamma Mia and Murder's in the Heir. She has also done several virtual productions here during the lockdown. Cathy is excited to be working on this show with both of her boys: Joshua who is in the adult cast with her and Alec who is in the teen cast but can be found bossing the adults around as the Stage Manager. They are truly her inspiration to pursue this passion. Thank-you to Dan Ashlock for asking her to step into this role and thanks to her husband, Randy, for his quiet acceptance of the craziness.
Jordyn Blonder (Olive Ostrovsky) After taking an almost ten year hiatus from performing, Jordyn is T-H-R-I-L-L-E-D to be back on stage making her debut in SCT's production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee! She got her start at DST as a young girl where her past roles include: Miss Hannigan (Annie), Fairy Godmother (Cinderella), and Lumiere (Beauty and the Beast). She got her degree from Arizona State University (go devils!) in Elementary Education and currently teaches second grade in the Cave Creek Unified School District. Jordyn gives much thanks to the cast and crew for giving her this amazing opportunity in such a safe environment. It has been so much fun bringing out her inner elementary school girl! Much love to Jordyn's family and friends for their continuous support!
Joshua Merrill (Leaf Coneybear/Carl Dad) is super excited to be back onstage and participating in this musical! Recent show credits include Murder’s in the Heir (Zoni Nom) and The Addams Family (NYAA Nom) here at Starlight. He would like to thank his parents and brother for their constant support, Dan Ashlock for giving him the chance to bring Leaf Coneybear to life during these hard times, and to his cast and crew for making this experience so worthwhile! Hope you all enjoy the show!
Lacey Dixon (Rona Lisa Perretti/Olive's mom) is excited to be back at Starlight Community Theater after playing Truly Scrumptious in their 2018 production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! She was last seen on Fountain Hills Theater’s outdoor stage in their production of Holly Jolly Christmas. Other credits include Pippin (Catherine), Legally Blonde (Vivienne), and Into the Woods (Lucinda). Lacey never competed in an actual spelling bee and was eliminated in her elementary school class mock bee for missing the “i” in business. This might be why she instead has a degree in mathematics. She would like to thank the entire cast, crew and artistic team for their talent, laughter and putting up with her subpar dancing skills.
Mary Zimmerman (Marcy Park) Mary is thrilled to be making her Starlight Community Theatre debut! Her favorite past credits include Velma Kelly in Chicago and Janet Van de Graaf in The Drowsy Chaperone with Sunnyslope Theatre and Katrina Van Tassel in Greasepaint Theater’s production of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Mary is currently a senior at Sunnyslope High School and is heading to Boston College in the fall. She would like to thank the cast, crew, and directorial team for making this such a wonderful experience and her family for encouraging her probably irritating love of performance.
Megan Gardner (Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere) Megan is excited to be returning to the Starlight stage with this incredible cast and crew! As a high school theater teacher, it’s always fun to get back onstage rather than behind the scenes. Some of Megan’s recent credits include Annie in Annie Get Your Gun, Leanne in Desert Stages Puffs, and Lisa in Starlights Mamma Mia. Thank you to the entire cast and production team for putting together this crazy pandemonium of a show!
Noah Manumaleuga (Will Barfee/Jesus) is a 20 year old attending school at GCC. His last role was actually at Starlight in Fall of 2019 as Gomez Addams in "The Addams Family." He was also involved with Spotlight Youth Theaters Zoni-Winning production of "Dogfight" as a Light Technician. He is grateful for being cast as William Barfee in Starlight's production of "Spelling Bee" and would like to thank his director, Dan Ashlock, for this opportunity; as well as the rest of the cast and crew who have been working hard and safe to put this show on!
Rudy Bogojevich (Chip Tolentino/Olive's dad) Rudy is extremely excited to be a part of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee cast. This will be his second production with Starlight. By day he is a Sr. Sales Specialist for Farmers Insurance, but by night he is an actor/singer. He recently played Arthur Holmwood and Jonathan Harker in Starlight’s Dracula. He has also played Rocky in a production of Damn Yankees with Desert Stages, Tobias in the concert production of Sweeney Todd during his time with ProMusica Arizona Choir, and has been in many Scottsdale Musical Theater Company productions. He is very excited for future Starlight productions. Rudy would like to thank his parents Mark & Juanita, his sister Gaby, his in-laws Lisa & Randy, and most importantly his wife Tara, son Orion, and two daughters Athena and Luna. Go Buckeyes!
Dan Ashlock (Director) Recent directing: Mamma Mia, Holy Matrimony, A Christmas Story, Year of Magical Thinking (all Starlight); Damn Yankees, PUFFS!, Oliver, 6 RMS RIV VU, Spamalot, Seussical (all DST); and, Farce of Habit (Trilogy). Recent acting: Murder’s In the Heir (Mike, Starlight), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Grandpa Potts, Starlight), Young Frankenstein (Victor, DST), It's A Wonderful Life (Clarence, Starlight), Barefoot in the Park (Victor, DST), Fox on the Fairway (Dickie, MET). He earned a BS in speech communication/theater at NAU and a MS in counseling at CCSU. He is very proud of his family – Renee, Nathan and Quinlyn.
Abeth Spencer (Assistant Director) Abeth is making her assistant directorial debut on a show about a spelling bee, which is ironic because she is wholly incapable of spelling the word "daisies." And “recipe.” And “available.” When she is not feeling deep despair about her inability to spell common words, Abeth enjoys playing video games with her two children, reading Moby Dick, and pawning the writing of her theater bios off on her much smarter younger brother. She would like to thank Dan and Starlight for this opportunity and probably won't mess it up.
Joshua Merrill (Stage Manager: Teen Shows) see bio above
Alec Merrill (Stage Manager: Adult Shows) see bio above
Elise Kurbat (Musical Director) Elise is originally from Cleveland Ohio. She attended Kent State University and Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music for degrees in criminology and music. She was a full-time piano accompanist, children’s choir director, music director, and a private piano/voice teacher before moving to Arizona. Mrs. Kurbat has more than 20 years of teaching experience. As an accomplished pianist, Mrs. Kurbat was the assistant pianist for Mansfield Symphony in Ohio. In addition, Mrs. Kurbat has music directed and played for such shows as “The Sound of Music,” “Cabaret,” “Cinderella,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Pippin,” “Oliver,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “Seussical Jr.,” “Gretel and Hansel,” “Urinetown,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Spring Awakening.”
Melody Pierce (Choreography) Melody (24) has been a member of the theater community for over 8 years and has been dancing since the age of 5. She has helped bring shows like 'Guys and Dolls' and 'All Shook Up' to life through dance. Melody would like to thank Nathalie for always believing in her and pushing her to be her best in both the theater and dance world. When she is not teaching dance, Melody competes with a power tap dance at the Miss Arizona Scholarship Competition, where she currently holds the title of Miss Phoenix. She would also like to thank her mom for always supporting her dreams.
Renee Ashlock (Lighting Design) Renee recently served as the Lighting Designer/Tech for Holy Matrimony, Mamma Mia (Starlight), Damn Yankees and Oliver (DST). She has also been a stage manager and technical director for numerous DST, ASA and BCHS productions. Renee teaches middle school science for the Loyola Academy at Brophy College Prep.
Brenda Goodenberger (Hair/Makeup Design) Brenda is an ariZoni, NYA, and AYAA nominated and winning makeup and hair designer. She has worked in the cosmetics field for over 25 years, and is thrilled to be on the Starlight team! She has designed and directed over 40 productions, in addition to being a versatile performer in theatres across the valley. Thank you to Dan for this opportunity, and enjoy the show!