Dot teen stars in spell-binder role in Wheelock’s “Akeelah and the Bee’

Fields Corner’s Journey King, shown jumping rope above, stars in the title role in Wheelock Family Theatre’s production of “Akeelah and the Bee.”

So, it seems that a Dorchester King has turned out to be the Queen Bee of the latest family-friendly production at the Wheelock Family Theatre (WFT).

Dot teen Journey King is inspiring local audiences as she stars in the title role of the current WFT stage production of “Akeelah and the Bee,” which runs on the Riverway through Sun., Nov. 20.

Many of us remember the 2006 feel-good film drama “Akeelah and the Bee,” written and directed by Doug Atchinson. He got the idea for the movie when he attended the 1994 Scripps National Spelling Bee and observed that contestants of color competing in what was generally perceived as a white person’s activity were faced with challenges from both outside and within their communities.

His inspirational production follows Akeelah Anderson (played by Keke Palmer), as an 11-year-old girl from South L.A. who is determined to compete in National Spelling Bee. She is discouraged by her mother (Angela Bassett), but encouraged by her mysterious mentor/father figure, Dr. Joshua Larabee (Laurence Fishburne).

Wheelock is among the first institutions in the country to mount a stage adaptation by playwright Cheryl L. West, which transfers the action from L.A. to West’s home town of Chicago.

Sample "You go, girl" dialogue:
Dr. Larabee: What if, Akeelah, you were so powerful and so courageous that all those who laugh now will one day want to be you?
Akeelah: You trippin’, I mean, who would wanna be me? Half the times I don’t even wanna be me.
Dr. Larabee: No, you don’t get to bully yourself in my presence. Ever! You’llstand in your power, which starts by standing up straight and being focused on the goal at hand.

Playing the 11-year-old Akeelah is 13-year-old Fields Corner resident Journey King, who attended Dot’s Nathan Hale School before moving on to Thayer Academy.

Despite her youth, Journey has had many years of theatrical training. According to her mother, Alexandria King, who herself has acted with local ensembles like Company One and Central Square Theater, “Journey started training with Boston Children’s Theatre when she was, I think, five years old.

Among her many roles for BCT were parts in “Fame” and “Into the Woods.” At Thayer, she had the lead role of Ti Moune in the one-act musical “Once Upon This Island.”

Other cast members include Dot resident Kadahj Bennett, who plays the national spelling bee pronouncer; and Diane Thai, who plays a student. Among the adult actors are several well-known local theater artists: Johnny Lee Davenport, Keith Mascoll, Vince Siders, Farai Williams, Ramona Lisa Alexander, James Milord, and Gary Ng.

Linda Chin, who a year ago became WFT’s Executive Director, helms this heart-warming production.
See for yourself why audiences are giving “Akeelah and the Bee” an A+!