He awoke in the dark, instantly alert. Curious, he sat up and listened. The pale glow from the bedside clock blinked 3:48 am. The house was still; the neighborhood was quiet except for the rustle and last drips of rain through the trees and on the roof. Nothing else moved, but anticipation sparked the edges of his consciousness. What had called him?

I wish I’d seen La La Land a year ago. It would have made that moment at the end of the Academy Awards ceremony, when Faye Dunaway accidentally announced it had won Best Picture and the production team got up on stage and started making speeches and then it turned out Moonlight had actually won, so much sweeter.

My favorite moments in theater are when I’ve been caught off guard by a performance, or was surprised to love a piece I hadn’t expected to. Director Nick Abounader and company pulled off something close to theatrical alchemy with their recent production at Players of Utica, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: the ensemble was so in sync with the material and each other that the whole thing became gloriously more than its parts.