The new musical directed by James Lapine (Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods) opened on Broadway May 2, 2005 at the Circle in the Square Theatre following previews from April 15. The work which debuted at Barrington Stage Company was developed further and played Off-Broadway's Second Stage Theatre prior to its current run.
Spelling Bee was based on C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E, an original play created by Rebecca Feldman and the comedy troupe The Farm. Composer-lyricist William Finn provides the score to the musical incarnation with a book by librettist Rachel Sheinkin.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee pits 10 contestants (six actors, four audience members) against each other in a battle for the championship of the local spelling competition. The current cast on Broadway features original cast members Derrick Baskin (as Mitch Mahoney), Deborah S. Craig (Marcy Park), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Leaf Coneybear), Lisa Howard (Rona Lisa Peretti), Celia Keenan Bolger (Olive Ostrovsky), Jose Llana (Chip Tolentino), Sarah Saltzberg (Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre) with newcomers Josh Gad (as William Barfee) and Greg Stuhr (as Douglas Panch).
The musical earned six Tony Award nominations including Best Score, Best Book, Best Direction, Best Featured Actor (Dan Fogler) and Featured Actress (Celia Keenan Bolger) as well as for the top prize of Best Musical. Fogler and book writer Sheinkin took home awards for their work.
A rare occurrence for Broadway, Spelling Bee and fellow 2005 Best Musical competitors The Light in the Piazza, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and winner Monty Python's Spamalot have all reached their first anniversary on the boards. Spelling Bee currently enjoys a San Francisco run at The Post Street Theatre and an open-ended run at Chicago's Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place. A run at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre (Aug. 23-Sept. 17) precedes the show's national tour.
Cities slated to see the bee include: