William Finn Spoofs Spelling Bees in New Musical, Putnam County Spelling Bee, July 8-Aug. 1 in MA

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08 Jul 2004

Jesse Tyler Ferguson in <I>The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee</I>
Jesse Tyler Ferguson in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Dana I. Harrel

Barrington Stage Company in Sheffield, Massachusetts, mounts the world premiere of William Finn's new musical comedy, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Consolati Performing Arts Center July 8-Aug. 1.

Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist William Finn (Falsettos), playwright Rachel Sheinkin and conceiver Rebecca Feldman spoof competitive spelling bees with comic numbers and quirky characters.

Michael Unger and Rebecca Feldman co-direct.  The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was workshopped at Barrington Stage Company in partnership with The Herrick Theatre Foundation in February. It plays Stage II at the Consolati Center.

The show pits audience volunteers against six fiercely competitive spellers "in this outlandish match of wits," according to Barrington. "Only one of these brainiacs will be crowned the Putnam County Spelling Bee champ. This white-knuckle competition, where your standing is only as good as your last word, is sure to change each participant's life forever."

The cast includes Derrick Baskin, Deborah S. Craig, Jesse Tyler Ferguson (The Public Theater's On the Town), Dan Fogler, Celia Keenan-Bolger (Summer of 42, The Light in the Piazza), Lisa Howard (a veteran of Les Miserables on tour), Jay Reiss, Sarah Saltzberg and Robb Sapp (Zanna, Don't!).



Composer and lyricist William Finn is the writer and composer of Falsettos for which he received two Tony Awards: Best Book of a Musical (with James Lapine) and Best Original Score.  He has also written and composed In Trousers, March of the Falsettos, Falsettoland, Romance and Hard Times and A New Brain. He also penned a dormant musical version of The Royal Family. Finn's latest work, Elegies, A Song Cycle, was recently presented at Lincoln Center and is starting to have a regional theatre life.

Playwright Rachel Sheinkin recently collaborated on Notes Across a Small Pond (Bridewell Theatre, London), Striking 12 (Old Globe, San Diego; Prince Music Theatre, Philadelphia), Blood and Other Humors (Eugene O'Neill National Music Theater Conference) and Serenade (Daryl Roth New Voices/New Musicals First Look series). She taught playwriting at the National Theater Institute and had writing fellowships or residencies at the Eugene O'Neill National Music Theatre Conference, MacDowell Colony, TheatreWorks, and Manhattan Theatre Club. Sheinkin is an adjunct faculty member at NYU's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.

Conceiver and co-director Rebecca Feldman is founder of the New York-based improvisational group, the Farm, which created C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E, the show upon which The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is based.  Feldman conceived, directed and performed in C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E at the Present Company Theatorium in New York.  Other projects with the Farm include Super, Jade Winds (or Why I Hate Florida) and V-Ville. Her work as a director and performer has been seen at the New York International Fringe Festival, Ohio Theatre, New Dramatists, Atlantic Theatre Studios, West End Theatre, PS 122, and Synchronicity Space.  Feldman has also performed at The Cleveland Playhouse, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Indiana Rep and Syracuse Stage.

Co-Director Michael Unger, who directed the Barrington Stage Company's Changes of Heart in 1997, directed the Off-Broadway production of Retribution.  Some of his regional directing credits include A Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre, The Mikado at The Depot Theatre, Noises Off at New Harmony, Meet Me In St. Louis at MUNY, Triumph of Love and School For Wives at the Weston Playhouse, Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Game of Love and Chance (French language productions) at the Sanford Meisner Theatre, the American premiere of Cries From the Mammal House at The Limelight in L.A., Cleavage and Smokes at Mark Taper Forum-NWF, and Taming of the Shrew at Complex Theatre in L.A.

Choreographer Dan Knechtges choreographed the Off Broadway productions of Ghoul for Adobe Theatre Company.  His other New York credits include An Evening of Gilbert & Sullivan at Carnegie Hall, One Must Do at La Mama, Inc., and Iolanthe, Ruddigore, Patience, The Gondoliers, H.M.S. Pinafore, and The Sorcerer all at The Blue Hill Troupe.

  Musical director Vadim Feichtner, returns to Barrington Stage Company where he served as musical director for the winter workshop of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, as well as BSC's production of Falsettos.  His credits include Infinite Joy, Elegies (both with William Finn), Owl Creek and Gold. Vocal arranger and associate music director is Carmel Dean, who also worked on the winter workshop of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and has arranged for the Broadway productions of The Boy from Oz, Gypsy, Cabaret and Les Miserables.

Designers are Beowulf Boritt (set), Randy Hansen (sound), Tyler Micoleau (lighting) and Jen Caprio (costume).

For BSC ticket information, call (413) 528-8888 or visit www.barringtonstageco.org.