You can be in the bee! In The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, audience members join six anxiety-ridden, overachieving adolescents onstage to vie for the coveted championship. While revealing hilarious and bittersweet stories of their lives, the tenacious tweens are pitted against each other to spell their way out of floccinaucinihilipilification to immertalitee immortality. The production is helmed by Professor of the Practice and Chair of the Department of Theatre, Scott Edmiston.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at rehearsal and hear directly from the cast.
Based on an improvisational play by Rachel Sheinkin with music and lyrics by William Finn, this hilarious musical comedy made its Broadway debut in 2005 and was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two, including Best Book. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee takes a fun, unconventional twist, incorporating audience participation in the non-stop faceoff between the quirky contestants.
“Spelling Bee is one of most beloved and hilarious musicals of recent years,” says director Scott Edmiston. “In its own quirky, off-center way, it celebrates the power of language, individualism, and non-conformity. Spelling bees are a unique American concept — a place where anyone has the opportunity to succeed. And because the show invites audience members to participate in the bee as spellers, no two performances are ever alike.”
The New York Times opined: “The musical pokes serious fun at its twitchy tween contestants — in the loopy spirit of the movie ‘Waiting for Guffman’ — but it pays affectionate tribute to these quirky young spelling titans, too. It sweetly, and just a little sentimentally, suggests that the youngsters’ initiation into the rigors of competition is at once an excruciating rite of passage and a crucible for character-building.”
Megan Maloney AMD ’16, playing the part of Logaine Schwartzandgrubenierre, says, “On the surface Spelling Bee is a have-fun, fuzzy-feeling musical. Once you progress into the play a bit more, you become really invested in the story and sympathetic to the characters experience feel an extraordinary pressure to succeed.
Chester Domoracki AMD ’16 has the role of William Barfeé. He adds, “The dialogue and songs are very intelligent. The music is complex and clever. There is a heavy improv element to the show, as well as audience participation, so if you like musicals, comedies, improv, or offbeat shows, this is the show for you!”
Rachel Sheinkin’s conception of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee won her the Tony Award for Best Book. She has written the book for a number of other musical-theatre productions including Little House on the Prairie and Sleeping Beauty Wakes, for which she received the LA Stage Ovation Award for World Premiere Musical. Sheinkin is on the adjunct faculty at the Tisch School of the Arts and Yale School of drama, two of her alma maters.
Composer and lyricist William Finn has been the winner of a number of awards including the 1992 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score for his work in Falsettos. His work in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee earned him a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Original Score. Recent additions to his repertoire include Make Me a Song and Little Miss Sunshine.
Director Scott Edmiston is a Professor of the Practice and Chair of the Department of Theatre. Last spring he directed NU’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Earlier this season he directed My Fair Lady for the Lyric Stage Company (Best of 2015 Wall Street Journal, Arts Impulse Nomination for Best Director) and Casa Valentina for Speakeasy Stage Company. He has directed more than 60 productions at theatres throughout Greater Boston including the American Repertory Theatre and the Huntington Theatre Company where he was Artistic Associate. Highlights include: Long Day’s Journey into Night, The History Boys, Nixon in China, Five by Tenn, In the Next Room, The Light in the Piazza, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Water by the Spoonful, Private Lives, and Betrayal. Four of his productions have received Elliot Norton Awards as Outstanding Production or Musical, and he has received three Norton Awards and two IRNE Awards for his direction. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from Penn State, the StageSource Theatre Hero Award, and the Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence in Theatre.