With music by William Finn, the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a musical comedy based on a fictional Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in a geographically ambiguous Putnam County. Directed by James Lapine, it was work shopped and developed at the Barrington Stage Company in the Berkshires before transferring to Broadway's Circle in the Square Theatre.
4 audience members are invited to compete in the Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee alongside six performers. Former Presidential candidate Al Sharpton had a cameo as one of the competitors during the 2005 Tony Awards. Buttons having the Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee logo and with the word ?Finalist? written on them are given to all audience members. Periodic ?Parent-Teacher Conferences? are also held regularly where audience members must be over 17 and the performances are peppered with sexual references and cursing. This is also known as ?adult night at the Bee?. The official pronouncer provides ridiculous usage examples when asked to use words in a sentence. For instance, for the word ?palaestra,? he said, "Euripedes said, 'What happens at the palaestra stays at the palaestra.'"
The 2006 winner of the Scripps National Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Katharine ?Kerry? Close was invited to be a contestant for one performance of the show. She was the last speller from the audience left and survived 14 rounds. The 25th Annual Putnam County nationalSpelling Bee is actually based upon a non-musical play, C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E, by The Farm, a New-York-based improvisational comedy troupe. Playwright Wendy Wasserstein was greatly impressed by it and roped in her friend William Finn (Falsettos) to take it to the next level. Rachel Sheinkin was brought in and she worked with creator Rebecca Feldman to turn the piece into a full-length musical.
Annual Putnam County national Spelling Bee had a workshop at Barrington Stage Company in Sheffield, Massachusetts in 2004 and that summer, had its first full production, in a cafeteria turned theatre. It was Off-Broadway?s Second Stage Theatre after that and was quickly sold out. It broke Second Stage records and on April 15, 2005, moved to Broadway?s Circle in the Square with opening officially on May 2nd. Here it won two 2005 Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Featured Actor. Currently two other productions of the musical in addition to the New York production are running in the United States: Chicago and National Tour. The Chicago production began performances on March 28, 2006 at the Drury Lane Theatre ? Water Tower Place but went on a hiatus after about a year. It plans to resume around April 18, 2007. On September 19, 2006, the National Tour began in Baltimore, Maryland at the Hippodrome Theatre and is currently touring many cities across the U.S. Two additional sit-down productions of the musical: San Francisco and Boston are no longer running.
The first international production of the Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee happened at the Melbourne Theatre Company in Melbourne, Australia in January 2006 starring Marina Prior as Rona Lisa Peretti, David Campbell as Chip Tolentino, and Magda Szubanski as William Barfee. Anyone who is at the theatre 20 minutes before curtain can be a volunteer speller.
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