Spelling Bee Thursday: An Introduction


The original Broadway cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in 2005.

We are in the second week of our Spelling Bee Thursday blog series highlighting all-things The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

This week, we are breaking things down a bit and offering a look at what exactly the show is about, a little history and more.

Here we go:


From William Finn, the composer of Falsettos, A New Brain and Little Miss Sunshine, comes a Tony Award-winning look at the all-too-familiar world of adolescence, told with hilarity, catchy tunes and surprising poignancy.

The gloves are off in the take-no-prisoners, cold-blooded, dog-eat-dog world of competitive spelling as a menagerie of pre-pubescent misfits vies to d-e-c-i-m-a-t-e their young rivals on the cutthroat path to the national spelling bee championship.

Hormones rage and pulses pound as our awkward adversaries engage in feats of o-r-t-h-o-g-r-a-p-h-i-c prowess. The winner will receive a shining trophy and a luxurious DC hotel room with a big screen TV. The loser – nothing but a broken heart, a pat on the back and a juice box.


The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, first conceived by Rebecca Feldman with music/lyrics by William Finn and a book by Rachel Sheinkin, began development at the Barrington Stage Company of Pittsfield, Mass. in two different stages, according to the Musical Theatre International website.


Patrick Halley as William Morris Barfee in The Rep’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

After developing into full-scale musical, Spelling Bee then moved Off-Broadway to the Second Stage Theatre under the direction of James Lapine. Opening for previews on Jan. 11, 2005, and officially on Feb. 7, 2005, Spelling Bee received great reviews, sold out its limited engagement, broke box office records at Second Stage and extended its run. The musical concluded its short but successful Off-Broadway stint on March 20, 2005.

One month later, on April 15, 2005, Spelling Bee transferred to Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre, again receiving outstanding critical and box-office achievement. The show closed on January 20, 2008 after 1,136 performances and has since lived on with major success in two national tours, numerous international productions and numerous regional productions at theatres across the country.


This laugh-out-loud musical comedy has won numerous major awards since taking Broadway by storm, including:

  • Drama Desk Awards for Book of a Musical (Rachel Sheinkin), Director of a Musical (James Lapine) and Ensemble Performance
  • Outer Critics Circle Award for Featured Actor in a Musical (Dan Fogler)
  • Tony Awards for Book of a Musical (Rachel Sheinkin) and Featured Actor in a Musical (Dan Fogler)

Learn more about the fun (and youthful) costumes in our From Script to Stage video series here!

Don’t miss the highly acclaimed musical when it takes center stage Oct. 16-Nov. 8– book your tickets by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visit TheRep.org.

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