I Learned All About ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ Just For You!

By Maddy Dowler

Well, here’s another show I’ve never heard of. But that’s not saying much as I am not well-versed in the language of theatre overall. But as the Communications Manager here at ABT, when I found out that The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was our feature ‘Off-Broadway at The ENCORE’ performance March 20 – 29, 2020, I knew I’d better study up.

So, I did what anyone would do which is to look it up on Wikipedia and here’s what I learned:

It’s a musical comedy with music and lyrics by William Finn, a book by Rachel Sheinkin, conceived by Rebecca Feldman with additional material by Jay Reiss which originally ran on Broadway in 2005. The show centers on a fictional spelling bee set at the geographically ambiguous Putnam Valley Middle School. Six quirky mid-pubescents compete in the Bee which is run by three equally quirky grown-ups. So far, so good – I like it. It turns out that it had great reviews on Broadway, box office success, and was also nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two, including best book.

The musical was based upon C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E, an original improvisational play created by Rebecca Feldman and performed by The Farm, a New-York-based improvisational comedy troupe. Sarah SaltzbergWendy Wasserstein‘s weekend nanny, was in the original production, and Wasserstein recommended that Finn see the show. Finn brought Rachel Sheinkin on board, and they worked together with Feldman to transform “C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E” into a scripted full-length musical.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

An unusual aspect of the show is that four real audience members are invited on stage to compete in the spelling bee alongside the six young characters. What?! In fact, during the 2005 Tony Awards, former Presidential candidate, Al Sharpton, competed. Another amusing aspect of the show is that the official ‘pronouncer,’ usually an improv comedian, provides ridiculous usage-in-a-sentence examples when asked to use words in a sentence.

Ok, you had me at improv…

So, about the music…The Broadway cast album was released on May 31, 2005, and was nominated for a Grammy Award. That’s all I know but I found a track from the original Broadway soundtrack so we can listen to it together (but keep reading after):

So, I think this is shaping up to be a really fun night out at Arizona Broadway Theatre!

“If you’re going to bee anywhere, why not bee here?!” – Maddy Dowler

Also, here’s some useful information:

Presented in ABT’S Encore Room. This is not a Mainstage dinner & show event. Food and beverage service is available for purchase before the show and at intermission.


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