Celebrating its first decade in the industry, The Sandbox Collective kicks off its 2024 season with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, an award-winning interactive musical about six mid-pubescents who vie for the spelling championship of a lifetime. Much like Sandbox’s most recent productions, Every Brilliant Thing and Bawat Bonggang Bagay, the musical is an interactive production, with each show featuring four guest spellers from the audience and relying heavily on the cast’s improvisational skills. Featuring a fast-paced, wildly funny, and touching book by Rachel Sheinkin and a truly fresh and vibrant score by William Finn, this bee is sure to become one unforgettable experience.

Winner of the Tony and the Drama Desk Awards for Best Book, the musical will be directed by renowned actress, educator and director Missy Maramara. Dingdong Rosales will serve as the musical’s assistant director. Rony Fortich will serve as the show’s musical director.

The cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee hails from diverse performing backgrounds, from Star Magic talents making their professional theatrical debuts to young theater professionals making their Sandbox Collective debuts, to theater veterans making their long-awaited return to the stage.

Making their professional theatrical debuts in the role of Marcy Park are dynamic Star Magic talents AC Bonifacio and Shanaia Gomez. A dancer, singer and actress who has brought her passion around the world, AC has worked with artists like Ariana Grande, and appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show, Riverdale, Almost Paradise and the iWant TFC series Lyric and Beat. An Idol Philippines alum and multiplatform artist, Shanaia has made appearances in shows like Can’t Buy Me Love and was a regular on the breakout hit He’s Into Her. She’s also appeared in music videos such as Sam Concepcion’s “Diwata” and regularly hosts iWant ASAP, among other online shows.

Alternating for the role of eager beaver boy scout Chip Tolentino are Diego Aranda and Luis Marcelo. Diego made his professional theatrical debut in 2019, starring in The Quest for the Adarna as Prince Juan. He was most recently seen in Twenty Questions by Juan Ekis and Snow White and the Prince, garnering nominations for both roles as Best Performer in a Play and Best Supporting Performer. Last seen in The Quest for the Adarna as Prince Diego, Luis makes his first post-pandemic stage appearance in Spelling Bee. His previous credits include Crutchie in Disney’s Newsies, Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!, Officer Brophy in Arsenic and Old Lace, Hair, Side Show, and Waitress.

Almost a decade after her breakout performance in Annie and fresh from her appearance in Silver Lining, Krystal Brimner returns to theater as bright and humble word lover Olive Ostrovsky. In 2016, she won Best Child Actor at the Metro Manila Film Festival for her role in Honor Thy Father, and has since released her debut single “Let Me Be Me.” Krystal will be alternating with singer and content creator Angela Ken. A Tiktok sensation, Angela first gained recognition for her covers and penning her own songs, and in 2021 released her first hit single “Ako Naman Muna” under Star Music. She also made her acting debut in the iWantTFC series Lyric and Beat.

A mainstay of the university theater scene, having appeared in shows like Bring It On: The Musical and Zsazsa Zaturnnah: The Musical…’Yun Lang!, Elian Dominguez makes his professional stage debut as the awkward homeschooled student Leaf Coneybear. He will alternate with Shaun Ocrisma. A classically-trained actor, singer, and dancer, Shaun has been working in the Philippine entertainment industry since he was 10 years old, with roles in ZsaZsa Zaturnnah the Musical… ‘Yun Lang!, Dekada ‘70: Isang Musikal, Floy Quintos’ Laro, and Silver Lining the Musical.

Returning to the Sandbox Collective after her critically-acclaimed role as Dani Lyons in the musical Dani Girl is Becca Coates. She will be playing the precocious and civically-engaged Loggaine SchwartzAndGrubennierre. Having made her theatrical debut in The Sound of the Music, Becca also bagged a Gawad Buhay Award for Best Female Featured Actress in a Play for her performance in Agnes of God. Becca will be alternating with theater actress, host, and content creator Justine Narciso, who was most recently seen in Uncle Jane and musicals like Joseph the Dreamer and The Quest for the Adarna, where she was nominated for a Gawad Buhay for her role as Maria Blanca.

Taking on the role of William Barfee, the oddball speller with a unique spelling technique, will be theater actors Joshy Ramirez and Ron Balgos. A member of the City of Voices Chamber Singers, Joshy made his theatrical debut in 2002’s Falsettos, and was most recently seen in The Little Prince. Currently a college sophomore, Ron makes his professional theater debut in Spelling Bee. He was most recently seen in Zsazsa Zaturnnah: The Musical…’Yun Lang!

Spelling Bee also marks the return of theater veteran Liesl Batucan-Del Rosario to the stage. With three decades of professional theater experience under her belt, Liesl is an Aliw Awards Best Actress Hall of Famer and Philstage Gawad Buhay Awardee for her performances in Wait Until Dark, A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, Sweeney Todd, and August: Osage County.

Multi-awarded theater luminary and current president of Philstage Audie Gemora will take on the role of Vice Principal Douglas Panch. Fondly known as Philippine Theater’s First Gentleman, Audie has appeared in over 40 plays from Broadway/West End productions to original Filipino works, has won Gawad Buhay awards for his performances in Sweeney Todd, The Producers, La Cage Aux Folles, and in 2019 won Best Actor in a Play at the Aliw Awards for his performance in The Dresser.

Alternating for the role of Vice Principal Douglas Panch is award-winning director, actor, producer, editor, and writer Robbie Guevara. He serves as 9 Works Theatrical’s artistic director, producer, and librettist. Robbie wrote the book of the smash hit, Eto Na! Musikal nAPO!, for which he won for Outstanding Original Libretto at the Gawad Buhay Awards in 2018. He also took home the Gawad Buhay for Best Director in 2019 for Passion. A veteran of the stage, Robbie was most recently seen in Stage Kiss, Stop, Kiss, and You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

Rounding out the cast is the “King of Acoustic Pop” Nyoy Volante playing Mitch Mahoney. A multi-awarded singer-songwriter, Nyoy enjoyed a critically-acclaimed run as Lola in Kinky Boots, and has been hailed for many performances onstage, including Jersey Boys and Shrek. Known for his ballad hits, he is a resident judge in Tawag ng Tanghalan on It’s Showtime, the country’s longest-running singing competition.

Much like the characters of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Sandbox Collective’s 2024 season is expected to feature a lineup that is all at once exceptional, heartwarming, and galvanizing enough to lead to unexpected discoveries.

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