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Where Is the Original Cast of Broadway’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Now?

In 2005, seven members of the nine-person cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee made their Broadway debuts with the show at the Circle in the Square Theatre—but audiences could see the writing on the wall (…er, floor?): The company was packed with talent. The cast won the Drama Desk for Outstanding Ensemble and the musical was nominated for six Tonys, including Best Musical, and won the Tony for Best Book of a Musical. The grown-up actors playing grammar school spelling prodigies graduated to award-winning and prolific careers. From Emmy nominations to starring roles in the realm of Harry Potter, here are the winners’ destinations:

Jesse Tyler Ferguson in <i>25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee </i>
Jesse Tyler Ferguson in 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Joan Marcus

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Leaf Coneybear
That’s right. Before he was nominated for five Primetime Emmy Awards as the perfectly uptight lawyer Mitchell Pritchett on the long-running Modern Family, Ferguson was a Broadway kid. He originated the role of Leaf Coneybear; who could ever forget his rendition of “I’m Not That Smart?” In between playing half of Mitch and Cam, Ferguson has made time for theatre, starring in Shakespeare in the Park’s A Comedy of Errors alongside Hamish Linklater and as no less than 40 characters in the 2016 revamped version of Fully Committed, for which he won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance.


Dan Fogler (right) leads the company in a scene from <i>The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee</i>
Dan Fogler (right) in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Joan Marcus

Dan Fogler, William Barfee
Fogler’s star has only continued to rise since he made his Broadway debut as the magic-footed speller, and won the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Since then, Fogler transitioned to the screen, making a splash in comedies like Balls of Fury and Take Me Home Tonight. He’s voiced characters in Kung Fu Panda and Horton Hears a Who! and appeared on multiple television series. But Fogler’s staying success has come with the recent offshoot of the Harry Potter franchise, the Fantastic Beasts film series. As lugubrious Jacob Kowalski in the magical prequel, Fogler played an American No-Maj with loads of heart and humor in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and is set to appear in future movies from the brand.

Lisa Howard stars as Rona Lisa Peretti in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Lisa Howard in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Joan Marcus

Lisa Howard, Rona Lisa Peretti
In a moment of perfect synergy, Broadway brought us the stunning vocals and dry wit of Howard—a true star performer whose talents blow us away every time she hits the stage. After closing out the run of Spelling Bee, Howard appeared in Broadway’s South Pacific as Lieutenant Marshall and then in the ensemble of 9 to 5, when she understudied Allison Janney in the role of Violet Newstead. She joined the cast of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert as one of the divas before taking the reins as leading lady in It Shoulda Been You. Her incredible Act 2 showstopper “Jenny’s Blues” proved what she can do, and earned her a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Musical in 2015. Next up: Howard takes center stage as Tammy in the highly anticipated Jimmy Buffett jukebox musical Escape to Margaritaville.

Derrick Baskin, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Lisa Howard in Spelling Bee
Derrick Baskin, Celia Keenan-Bolger, and Lisa Howard in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Joan Marcus

Derrick Baskin, Mitch Mahoney
After wowing the crowd with his smooth and soulful vocals at Circle in the Square, Baskin upped the ante and his high tenor as one of Ursula’s sinister eels (Jetsam) in Disney’s The Little Mermaid on Broadway. Baskin then did a 180 and played Gator in Broadway’s Tony-winning Memphis, a character who didn’t speak after witnessing a horrible event in his childhood—which only made it more impactful when Gator was driven to speak up (and sing out). For the past three years, fans of Amazon’s Difficult People know him as coffee shop owner Nate.

Deborah S. Craig in <i>The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee </i>
Deborah S. Craig in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Joan Marcus

Deborah S. Craig, Marcy Park (recent transfer)
Known as the girl who spoke six languages, Craig made her Broadway debut with Spelling Bee. Though she hasn’t returned to the Broadway stage, she played the recurring roles of Melanie on Six Degrees, waitress Shelley on The CW’s Hart of Dixie, and then Luli Zeng on The Blacklist. She recently sang at the Town Hall benefit concert “Double Standards,” produced by Tony nominee Laura Bell Bundy, and will be seen in three upcoming films: Poor Greg Drowning, the short Baby Bird, and Prince Harming.


Celia Keenan-Bolger in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Celia Keenan-Bolger in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Joan Marcus

Celia Keenan-Bolger, Olive Ostrovsky
This actor made her Broadway debut with Spelling Bee—earning a Tony nomination—and stuck firmly in the theatre. She played Eponine in the 2006 revival of Les Misérables (and earned a Drama Desk nomination) before starring in three leading roles in three consecutive Broadway plays, originating the role of Molly in Peter and the Starcatcher (her second Tony nomination), taking on Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie (her third Tony nomination and a Drama Desk win), and Varya in the 2016 adaptation of The Cherry Orchard. Keenan-Bolger has kept busy Off-Broadway, as well, originating the role of Mary in Saved, 2011’s A Small Fire, the Encores! concert staging of Merrily We Roll Along,The Oldest Boy, and most recently in Second Stage’s A Parallelogram.


Jose Llana in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Jose Llana in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Joan Marcus

Jose Llana, Chip Tolentino
Llana’s Broadway career has literally gone full circle. Having made his Broadway debut in The King and I as Lun Tha in 1996, Llana’s most recent Main Stem role was as the replacement for the King of Siam in the Lincoln Center Theater production. Before Spelling Bee, Llana replaced for Angel Schunard in Rent on Broadway, and played Jessie-Lee in Street Corner Symphony and Ta in Flower Drum Song. After Spelling Bee—but before The King and I round two—the actor played El Gato in Frank Wildhorn’s Wonderland. The actor wowed audiences as Ferdinand Marcos in the Public Theater’s Here Lies Love, starring Ruthie Ann Miles, who would go on to be his Lady Thiang. He also played Orsino in the musical adaptation of Twelfth Night for Shakespeare in the Park. Llana currently plays the King with the national touring company of The King and I, now in Denver and playing cities across the country through August 2018.


Jay Reiss, Lisa Howard, and the cast of <i>The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee</i>
Jay Reiss, Lisa Howard, and the cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Joan Marcus

Jay Reiss, Douglas Panch
In addition to playing Vice Principal Panch, Reiss wrote additional material for Spelling Bee. Since the show closed, Reiss has followed the writing path. He penned the Julian Farino-directed comedy The Oranges and wrote The Complete History of My Sexual Failures for Universal Studios. His documentary Dare to Be Different is currently in post-production.

in <i>The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee </i>
Sarah Saltzberg in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Joan Marcus

Sarah Saltzberg, Logan Schwartzandgrubenierre
After departing Putnam County, Saltzberg collaborated again with Reiss, appearing in The Oranges. She played Daisy on the television series Wallflowers. But Saltzberg veered away from acting and towards writing, as well, penning the Off-Broadway comedy Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, which ran for two years. After years with the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, she now teaches improv to elementary school kids in New York City, but returns to Broadway with Gettin’ The Band Back Together, for which she wrote additional material.

The understudy spellers:
Todd Buonopane has continued to appear in Broadway ensembles for shows such as Grease and Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Kate Wetherhead earned fans as multi-role ensemble member in Legally Blonde The Musical, but her biggest claim to fame in theatre is as co-creator of web series Submissions Only. Willis White went on to join the cast of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Tony-winning musical In The Heights, while Lisa Yuen was a regular cast member of All My Children for two years.


See How Come From Away, Cats, and More Shows Celebrate the Holidays Backstage on Broadway

Though it may be the busiest season for travel, Broadway’s performers stay put to make sure that the hundreds of theatregoers flocking to New York over the holidays stay entertained. But, lucky for them, many companies call themselves a second family—which means another group of people with whom to celebrate! We asked the casts of some of the Main Stem’s biggest hits to share their backstage traditions with us. Flip through the gallery below to see how Come From Away, Cats, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and more spread seasonal cheer.


Flip through the photos of some of their backstage traditions and festivities below:



Megan Hilty and Wicked Composer Stephen Schwartz Set for 2018 Junior Theater Festival

More than 6,500 theatre students and educators will head to Atlanta for the 2018 Junior Theater Festival, which takes place January 12–14. The event, which is the largest of its kind, unites young theatre lovers for a weekend of performances, workshops, and special events with Broadway guest stars.

Smash star Megan Hilty will headline the festival with a special concert, while Stephen Schwartz, the composer-lyricist of Wicked, Pippin, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, will be on hand to introduce a new student edition of his biblical musical Children of Eden during the New Works Showcase. Also highlighted during the performance will be Disney’s Aladdin JR, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang JR.

JTF will also honor Grammy- and Oscar-winning songwriter Paul Williams with the Junior Theater Festival Legacy Award. Williams, who wrote such hits as “Evergreen” and “We’ve Only Just Begun,” also authored the popular licensing title Bugsy Malone, as well as The Muppet Movie and its classic song “Rainbow Connection.” The JTF Legacy Award is presented annually to “individuals whose vision and artistry have shaped the minds and hearts of educational musical theatre students and audiences all around the globe.” Past recipients include Alan Menken, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Jeanine Tesori, and Stephen Schwartz.

University School of Nashville, Roy Waldron Elementary Drama, and Bradley Academy Musical Theatre Present Peter Pan JR at JTF 2016
University School of Nashville, Roy Waldron Elementary Drama, and Bradley Academy Musical Theatre Present Peter Pan JR at JTF 2016

“We want to make sure that all young people have the same access to musicals as they do to youth sports programs, because being part of a show is the ultimate, all-inclusive team sport. Theater allows students to gain life skills, including collaboration, team-building, and problem-solving. Furthermore, musicals introduce and draw in young people to the five pillars of the arts—music, language, dance, visual arts, and the digital arts—all in one experience,” said Timothy Allen McDonald, Founder and CEO of iTheatrics and the Junior Theater Group in a statement. “When the Junior Theater Festival was founded in 2003, the intent was to create a World Series-like experience for theater. And, just like many Little League members go on to continue to participate in sports for the rest of their lives, the educational musical theater movement and its Junior Theater Festival are creating the audiences of tomorrow today.”

The Junior Theater Festival is sponsored by iTheatrics, along with Music Theatre International (MTI), Disney Theatrical Group, and Playbill, Inc.

Playbill will again present The Playbill Community Service Award. All groups attending the iTheatrics Junior Theater Festival are encouraged to document their organization’s community service projects. Up to five finalists will be highlighted on Playbill, where the public will vote on its favorite. (Voting ends at 11:59 PM ET January 15.)

The winning organization will receive $1,000 to support continued charitable efforts as well as Playbill’s educational resources such as PLAYBILLder.com, a DIY program maker allowing schools to personalize an authentic Playbill online.

Throughout the weekend, students and teachers participate in interactive workshops led by Broadway and West End professionals, gain from professional development, and meet other theatre lovers from across the world.

The festival will shine the spotlight on the next generation of composers and artists during Pathways, a Q&A event in which Broadway writers talk candidly about their experiences and present works from new shows.

Visit iTheatrics.com/Junior-Theater-Festival.


The Band’s Visit and Come From Away Designers Among 2017 Henry Hewes Design Award Recipients

Five theatre designers will be honored at the American Theatre Wing’s 2017 Henry Hewes Design Awards luncheon. Among this year’s recipients are The Band’s Visit lighting designer Tyler Micoleau and Come From Away costume designer Toni-Leslie James.


Tyler Micoleau Andy Drachenberg

Also recognized for their work this past year are set designer Laura Jellinek (A Life at Playwrights Horizons), Machine Dazzle (costume designer for Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music) and Jared Mezzocchi, projection designer for Manhattan Theatre Club’s Vietgone.


Micoleau and James previously won Hewes Design Awards for their work on Blasted and Jelly’s Last Jam, respectively.

The annual honors, first awarded in 1965 as the Maharam Awards, celebrate design work on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway. The awards committee includes chairman Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, David Barbour, David Cote, Glenda Frank, Helen Shaw, Michael Sommers, and Martha Wade Steketee.

The awards presentation will take place January 23, 2018.

See below for a full list of nominees (winners bolded)

Alexander V. Nichols, Ernest Shackleton Loves Me
Amy Rubin, Miles for Mary
Andrew Lieberman, Othello
Arnulfo Maldonado, Caught
Beowulf Boritt, A Bronx Tale
Carl Sprague, Fiorello!
Carolyn Mraz, The Black Crook
Christopher Barreca, Joan of Arc: Into the Fire
Dane Laffrey, Rancho Viejo
David Gallo, Jitney
David Korins, Bandstand
David Zinn, Present Laughter
Derek DelGaudio and Glenn Kaino, In and of Itself
Derek McLane, Gently Down the Stream
Derek McLane, If I Forget
Derek McLane, The Price
James Morgan, Marry Harry
Jason Sherwood, The View UpStairs
Jason Simms, Hamlet
Kate Noll, Orange Julius
Laura Jellinek, A Life
Laura Jellinek, The Light Years
Laura Jellinek, The Wolves
Mark Wendland, The Layover
Marsha Ginsberg, Dolphins and Sharks
Peiyi Wong, Charleses
Rachel Hauck, Tiny Beautiful Things
Sandra Goldmark, Vanity Fair
Scott Davis, Ride the Cyclone
Scott Pask, The Band’s Visit
Scott Pask, The Little Foxes

Anita Yavich, The View UpStairs
Ann Roth, The Front Page
Ásta Bennie Hostetter, Miles for Mary
Ásta Bennie Hostetter, Picnic and Come Back, Little Sheba
Ásta Bennie Hostetter, The Wolves
Catherine Zuber, Oslo
Catherine Zuber, War Paint
Clint Ramos, Joan of Arc: Into the Fire
David Murin, Fiorello!
David Zinn, A Doll’s House, Pt. 2
Dustin Cross, Spamilton
Emily Rebholz, Indecent
Hunter Kaczorowski, Yours Unfaithfully
Jane Greenwood, The Little Foxes
Katja Andreiev, Beardo
Kaye Voyce, Mourning Becomes Electra
Linda Cho, Anastasia
Machine Dazzle, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music
Mark Thompson, The Taming of the Shrew
Oana Botez, Duat
Paloma Young, Bandstand
Sarah Laux, The Band’s Visit
Susan Hilferty, Present Laughter
Toni-Leslie James, Come From Away
Toni-Leslie James, Jitney
Valérie Thérèse Bart, The Servant of Two Masters
Valérie Thérèse Bart, Vanity Fair

Adam Silverman, The Glass Menagerie
Amith Chandrashaker, Seven Spots on the Sun
Barbara Samuels, Orange Julius
Brian H. Scott, Chess Match No. 5
Brian MacDevitt, The Front Page
Christopher Akerlind, Indecent
David Weiner, Plenty
David Weiner, The Price
Donald Holder, Anastasia
Jane Cox, Jitney
Jane Cox, Othello
Japhy Weideman, The Layover
Jeff Croiter, Bandstand
Jen Schriever, The Moors
Jennifer Tipton, A Doll’s House, Pt. 2
Justin Townsend, Joan of Arc: Into the Fire
Justin Townsend, The Little Foxes
Kenneth Posner, War Paint
Matt Frey, A Life
Matt Frey, Everybody
Matt Frey, Rancho Viejo
Natasha Katz, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Oona Curley, Underground Railroad Game
Reza Behjat, Hamlet
Robert Wierzel, Troilus and Cressida
Russell H. Champa, The Light Years
Seth Reiser, Vanity Fair
Tyler Micoleau, The Band’s Visit

Aaron Rhyne (Projection Design), Anastasia
Andrew Schneider (Video Design), Dolphins and Sharks
Austin Switser (Video Design), Elements of Oz
John Cleater (Augmented Reality Design), Jessie Garrison (Interactive Design), Basil Twist (Puppet Design), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Dan Moses Schreier and Joshua Reid (Sound Design), Beardo
Darron L. West (Sound Design), Chess Match No. 5
Elaine McCarthy (Projection Design), Notes From the Field
Emma Wilk (Sound Design), Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey
Jared Mezzocchi (Projection Design), Vietgone
John Narun (Projection Design), Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey
Leon Rothenberg (Sound Design), Notes From the Field
Lucy Mackinnon (Projection Design), Yen
Machine Dazzle, Mimi Lien, John Torres, Jamie McElhinney, David Schnirman,
and Anastasia Durasova (Production Design), A 24-Decade History of Popular Music
Mike Tutaj (Video and Projection Design), Wilderness
Mike Tutaj (Projection Design), Ride the Cyclone
Mikhail Fiksel (Sound Design), A LifePalmer Heffernan (Sound Design), Orange Julius
Peter Nigrini (Projection Design), Wakey, Wakey
Reid Farrington (Projection Design), CasablancaBox
Tal Yarden (Projection Design), Indecent
Tal Yarden and Christopher Ash (Chromolume Design), Sunday in the Park With George


Bernadette Peters Explains Why She Decided to Play Dolly!

Three-time Tony recipient Bernadette Peters, who will succeed Tony winner Bette Midler in the title role of the Tony-winning revival of Hello, Dolly!, appeared on Live With Kelly and Ryan December 11.

Peters discussed her upcoming return to Broadway as well as her work on TV’s Mozart in the Jungle, the fourth season of which will be available beginning February 16, 2018.


The Broadway favorite also spoke about her decision to become Broadway’s next Dolly Gallagher Levi. Peters said when Midler suggested she succeed her in the role, she was unsure, “but then I read [the script], and I thought it’s just a lovely, wonderful role, about a woman who’s a widow, who retreated into her life for ten years and decides to get back to rejoin the human race. It’s a wonderful story.”
Peters, most recently on Broadway in the Tony-nominated revival of Follies, will play her first performance as matchmaker Dolly January 20, 2018, at the Shubert Theatre.


Prior to Follies, Peters was last on Broadway in the revival of A Little Night Music. She received a 2003 Tony Award nomination for her performance as Rose in the Sam Mendes-directed revival of Gypsy. Peters won her two Tonys for her performances in Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s Song & Dance and Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun, and she has also starred on Broadway in Mack & Mabel, On the Town, Sunday in the Park with George, The Goodbye Girl, and the original production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.


See Teenage Lin-Manuel Miranda, Laura Osnes, James Monroe Iglehart, Kara Lindsay, and More in Their High School Musicals

The new ABC television musical special Encore!, which reunites former classmates to rehearse and perform their high school musical one more time, premieres December 10 at 10 PM on ABC.

Frozen and The Good Place star Kristen Bell, who is a theatre kid herself, hosts and executive produces the documentary-style special that reunites a group of ex-classmates to restage their 1997 high school production of Into the Woods in its premiere episode.

Many of our favorite Broadway stars and theatre insiders began their theatrical careers in their own high school musical productions. Take a look at this exclusive slideshow featuring photos of teenage Lin-Manuel Miranda, Laura Osnes, Kara Lindsay, James Monroe Iglehart, Courtney Reed, Michael Arden, Wesley Taylor, Saycon Sengbloh, and more in their own high school productions.

Flip through photos of their high school performances below:

What’s In Your Book? How an Audition 5 Years Ago Led Kara Lindsay to Beautiful

Actor Kara Lindsay first made a splash on Broadway as Newsies original Katherine opposite Tony nominee Jeremy Jordan. The whipsmart, quick-tapping talent went on to play Glinda in the long-running musical Wicked on Broadway and now flashes back to the 1960s playing Cynthia Weil in Broadway’s Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Lindsay stopped by Playbill’s studio to give a glimpse at the secret to her success: great audition material. Watch her sing through her vocal repertoire in the video above and read below for how she chose the songs that landed her on the Great White Way.

Laurel Harris and Kara Lindsay in <i>Beautiful </i>(Left) and <i>Wicked </i>(Right)
Laurel Harris and Kara Lindsay in Beautiful (Left) and Wicked (Right)

Can you tell me a bit about each of the songs you sang in the video? For what audition did you sing it for? Why did you choose each song?
“Someone to Watch Over Me” has always been one of my favorites. Its a sweet ingenue type song and one that I felt really comfortable singing. In your initial auditions for new projects many times they ask you to sing “a song in the style of” a particular composer. “Art Is Calling For Me” is a fun bouyant soprano song that shows your range. I had been singing this song since high school and quickly learned that every other girl in musical theatre had, as well! There is a fear of bringing in a song that is overdone and potentially being overlooked because of this. In the end I think you need to go with your gut. If the overdone song is one that you can really live in and feel comfortable performing, then do it! “You Don’t Own Me” is a fun ’60s song I had been singing since college. The lyric and strong pulse of this song makes for such a specific character. A strong feisty gal who takes zero BS. In the initial auditions for Beautiful, almost five years ago, casting asked us to bring in a ’60s song of our choice. My decision was easy. I wasn’t the right fit for the role back then, but I’m so grateful the opportunity came around again. The auditions you work so hard on may not initially go your way, but years later it may pay off. You just never know!

What other songs are in your book?
I sing a lot from Baby. I sang “Story Goes On” for Newsies since they also asked for a “high belt” song. This is hilarious to me because in the song the character is singing about her pregnancy and I was auditioning to play a teenage girl in a new Disney musical. I also use “Two People In Love,” which is normally a duet from Baby. It’s a great uptempo 16 bars that makes me smile. I also have a couple of songs from my college friends Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond. They are a brilliant duo and I’ve been a ginormous fan of their work.

What is the song you sang to book your first professional job? Why did you choose it? What about it spoke to you?
I sang “I’m Not Afraid of Anything” by Jason Robert Brown for my first professional audition. I listened to Lauren Kennedy’s JRB album religiously (still do) and became an intense superfan of his music. I worked on a lot of JRB music throughout college since it was rangy for me and most auditions asked for 16 bars of a high belt song. The storytelling in his music is what spoke to me. If you can have a solid beginning middle and end for your 16 bars, the easier it will be to take them on some sort of journey in your short time allowed in the audition. And the more you will be thinking about what you are saying rather than the notes you are singing. First professional job at West Virginia Public Theatre booked!

What is a song that you love and have always wanted to sing at an audition, but hasn’t been right for any role or show you’ve tried out for so far?
I love Adam Guettel. “Migratory V” from Myths and Hymns has also been in my book since college. I sang it in a couple concerts but not yet for an audition. I think the roles I generally go in for are a bit more bouncy which calls for an uptempo type song. “Migratory V” is my anthem. I just love it.