News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 12-18: Bee Aggressive
Continuing in the string of Off-Broadway successes which yearn to breathe free in the roomier confines of Broadway is William Finn's sweet natured new musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which opened at Second Stage on Feb. 7 to mixed-to-positive-to-very-positive (the all-important New York Times) reviews. The end line of the Times notice, calling Bee "A Chorus Line with pimples," was in itself probably enough to lead to a two-week extension and provoke the interest of Wicked producer David Stone. Stone said the move would cost a minuscule (by Broadway musical standards $3.5 million and would retain the current cast of largely unknown actors. This week, it was learned that the Second Stage stagings of Paul Weitz's Privilege and Cheryl L. West's Birdie Blue will now begin a week later than expected due to the extension of Bee.

The show follows Doubt and Hurlyburly, two other Off-Broadway shows which quickly became hot Broadway prospects upon opening. The former John Patrick Shanley play recently made it official: it will begin previews at the Walter Kerr Theatre March 9 toward a March 31 opening. The latter is still looking around for a home.

Should Bee reach the Big Time, it will be composer William Finn's first Broadway visit since 1992's Falsettos, the musical that made his reputation. And unlike that show, and the ever-in-development Finn project The Royal Family, it's had a relatively speedy birth. Based on an original play C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E, the musical made its world premiere production at Sheffield, Massachusetts' Barrington Stage Company in July 2004. Only a few months passed before Second Stage booked it into its theatre.

(As an interesting note, C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E had its first production at the late lamented Present Company Theatorium, the same former Lower East Side garage where Urinetown began life. The space is, alas, no more; let the legend grow from here.)


Meanwhile, a Broadway show that was expected for the spring has decided to bide its time. Sarah Jones' acclaimed Off-Broadway bridge and tunnel — which is currently playing a special pre-Broadway workshop production at Berkeley Repertory Theatre through Feb. 20 — will not reach Broadway until the fall. A search for the right intimate house is the stated cause. ***

When Kevin Spacey gets behind a theatre, he gets behind a theatre. The Hollywood actor and new artistic director of London's Old Vic directed the company's debut show, Cloaca. Currently, he's making his Old Vic acting debut in National Anthems. Last week, it was announced that he would play the title role in Richard II, with Trevor Nunn directing, in fall 2005. But before that comes Philip Barry's The Philadelphia Story, with Spacy at C.K. Dexter Haven and Jennifer Ehle as Tracy Lord. Who out there is exhausted for Spacey just reading this schedule?

A scene from <i>The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee</i>
A scene from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Photo by Joan Marcus
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