Circle in the Square Theatre became the school gymnasium setting of the work when previews began April 15. James Lapine (Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods) directs the spellbinding showdown with the same cast and crew from its recent Off-Broadway run.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee pits ten contestants (six actors, four audience members) against each other in a battle for the championship of the local spelling competition. Among the pre-pubescent brainiacs are multi-lingual national finalist Marcy Park, Putnam Basin district second runner up Leaf Coneybear, Magna Magnet for the gifted and unusual representative Logainne Schwarzandgrubeniere, last year's finalist (eliminated for health reasons) William Barfee, newcomer Olive Ostrovsky and last year's county champion Chip Tolentino.
Also on hand at the showdown are comfort counselor Mitch Mahoney, longtime local Bee hostess (and former champ) Rona Lisa Peretti and word pronouncer, Lake Hemingway-Dos Passos Junior High Vice Principal Douglas Panch.
Circle in the Square becomes the musical's third home following its world premiere production at Sheffield, Massachusetts' Barrington Stage Company (in July, 2004) and Off-Broadway run at Second Stage Theater (Jan.-March, 2005).
The cast of Spelling Bee includes the original Barrington cast that featured Jesse Tyler Ferguson (On the Town), Celia Keenan-Bolger (Summer of 42, The Light in the Piazza), Derrick Baskin (Memphis), Deborah S. Craig (WaVe, The Karaoke Show), Lisa Howard (Les Misérables national tour) and original C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E castmates Dan Fogler (Joe Fearless), Jay Reiss (in his acting debut) and Sarah Saltzberg (The Donkey Show) as well as Flower Drum Song star Jose Llana. Tony Award-winning Falsettos collaborators — composer Finn (A New Brain) and director Lapine — reteam on the work with newcomer librettist Rachel Sheinkin (Striking 12). Rebecca Feldman is credited with the concept, based on her troupe The Farm's original play C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E. Actor Reiss is credited with additional material (for his "unhelpful" contextual sentences).
The musical features choreography by Dan Knechtges. Vadim Feichtner handles musical direction, Carmel Dean provides vocal arrangements and orchestrations are by Michael Starobin. Understudies are Todd Buonopane, Kate Wetherhead, Willis White and Lisa Yuen.
The design team includes Beowulf Boritt (scenic), Jennifer Caprio (costumes), Natasha Katz (lighting), Dan Moses Schreier (sound) and Marty Kopulsky (hair and wig). The production stage manager is Andrea Testani.
David Stone, James L. Nederlander, Barbara Whitman, Patrick Catullo, Barrington Stage Company and Second Stage Theater present the work. The original Broadway cast recording is scheduled for a May 24 release on Ghostlight Records.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will play at the Circle in the Square Theatre, which is located at 1633 Broadway (between 50 and 51 Streets). For more information, visit www.spellingbeethemusical.com.