Jason Koonce had forgotten how much energy it takes to be a 12-year-old.
He's one of nine cast members in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," a musical comedy being performed at the Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon.
His character, Leaf Coneybear, is a middle-school student with a short attention span. He wanders around cluelessly in a superhero cape and bike helmet with frog and lizard stickers.
"It's been a while since I've played a part that's this physically exhausting," said Koonce, 26, a government employee who lives in Dupo. "When I'm going, I'm going a mile a minute."
The musical will be performed at 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday and Feb. 1-2, and at 2 p.m. Sunday and Feb. 3 in Lebanon.
Jason Johnson plays William Barfee, another spelling bee contestant. He's smart, nerdy and somewhat antisocial.
William can breathe out of only one nostril. All his supposedly random words are the names of South American rodents.
"This is a part I've wanted to play ever since I listened to the CD," said Johnson, 37, also of Dupo, a customer service manager.
Johnson bought a recording of the Broadway production, which opened in 2005. The show is based on a book by Rachel Sheinkin, with music and lyrics by William Finn.
"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" was nominated for six Tony Awards. It won for Best Book and Best Featured Actor. Johnson particularly enjoys the music.
"There's some gospel numbers, some rock-style numbers, some softer jazz numbers and even a waltz," he said. "There's something for every taste, and it's very catchy music. You're humming it throughout the day once you've heard it."
The Lebanon production is being directed by Gigi Dowling Urban. This is its Looking Glass Playhouse debut.
Urban describes the show as challenging from both an acting and singing standpoint, and loads of fun.
"It's similar to 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown' because it's technically a children's show," she said. "But all the roles are played by adults."
The story is set in a middle-school gymnasium with bleachers and a basketball hoop. Urban is thrilled to be using scenery built by Southern Illinois University drama students for their production last summer.
The Lebanon show includes an element of spontaneity. Each night, four audience members will join the cast on stage as spelling bee contestants.
Urban's husband, Don, is cast as Vice Principal Douglas Paunch, who gives the words and definitions.
"It's a great nostalgic, fun play," Urban said. "I think the audience will enjoy seeing themselves and other students from middle school. We've sat next to these people, from the Boy Scout to the nerd to the girl who was accomplished at everything."
At a glance
What: "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"
Where: Looking Glass Playhouse, 301 W. St. Louis St. in Lebanon
When: 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1-2 and 2 p.m. Feb. 3
Tickets: lookingglassplayhouse.com or 618-537-4962