The special theme night at the William Finn, Rachel Sheinkin and Rebecca Feldman musical (directed by James Lapine) played March 18 at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Playbill.com acquired some of the notable quips from the production.
As the three big Broadway names took their spots among the contestants, they were introduced as such: "Mr. Mitchell is the first speller whose full name is a complete sentence." "Ms. Salonga is launching her own line of undergarments, featuring the Flower Drum Thong. [She] dreams about making it to Broadway the old-fashioned way - without appearing on 'American Idol.'" And, "After a recent visit to Taco Bell, Mr. Esparza came down with a nasty case of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs."
Most words provided to the special participants, at first, seemed harmless until the "helpful" contextual sentences were shared. Mitchell had to spell "indigent" — meaning "lacking the necessities of life; impoverished, poor, or needy" — which used in context was explained as: "Most indigent people gather at the Actors' Equity Lounge."
Esparza — who starred in Taboo — was given "dystopia: any horrible place or exceedingly hostile environment." The sentence: "Examples of dystopia include war ravaged countries, overcrowded prisons, and Rosie O'Donnell's dressing room." The current Company actor misspelled the word and was quickly knocked out.
Original Miss Saigon star Salonga was given with the word "helicopter" — the large set piece featured in that show — to comical effect. The sentence read: "Some shows follow the old theatre adage: when in doubt, add a helicopter." The current Les Miserábles star misspelled the word "crapaud: an edible bullfrog from south or central Asia." Used in the sentence: "During tech week, the cast meals were catered, while the crew was fed crapaud." Mitchell — who stuck around the longest — was also given the word "lascivious: feeling lust; sexually aroused." His sentence for that word was "Lascivious Larry approached the shapely chorus girl and said, 'Meet me backstage and I'll show you my spring awakening.'"
Logainne Schwartzandgrubenairre, played by original cast member Sarah Saltzberg, even went off on a Broadway-themed rant when the Bee breaks down and she addressed the audience, spewing, "This bee is about as ridiculous as Hollywood actors being cast in Broadway shows!! First, it was Julia Roberts. Then it was Julianne Moore. Now, Scarlett Johansson is apparently being cast in South Pacific! Oy vey! Producers should put up shows based on the merit of the production, not because they can get movie star 'names.' Do something meaningful! Do a - a - musical about a spelling bee, with nine unknown actors!... that would never work... you'd have to have at least one night with three recognizable performers. But I digress, Hollywood stars should not be sneaking onto the Broadway scene! As my dads always say, nothing good ever came from taking a quick slip through the backdoor!!"
Original cast members Derrick Baskin, Deborah S. Craig, Lisa Howard, Jose Llana and Sarah Saltzberg are now joined by Jared Gertner, Barrett Foa, Greg Stuhr and Jessica Snow Wilson in the current cast.
For more information on the musical, visit www.spellingbeethemusical.com.