Similarly, wholesome Boy Scout Chip Tolentino (Nathan Chang) hobbles bent over to the microphone, distracted by Leaf's sister in the audience. Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (Joanna Krupnick) got her hyperventilating name from her two dads, who insist that being number two is only for losers. Olive, neglected by a mother away at an ashram and a usually absent father, has only Webster's for her best friend. Korean overachiever Marcy Park (Lisa Yuen) speaks six languages and isn't permitted to cry.

For this all to go on for any length, it has to be musical, since there are only so many ways to step up to a microphone. Yuen, doing double-duty as choreographer, moves them about nicely. Songs also brighten the atmosphere, and most of them serve to let us peek into the inner lives of the characters. Some of the titles make that clear, such as "I'm Not That Smart" (Leaf) and "Woe Is Me," by the over-demanded Logainne.

Like summer itself on its better days, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a breezy, fun-oriented time. A good start for the season at Theatre by the Sea.

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