‘Spelling Bee’ set to close

Musical ends Broadway run on Jan. 20

January spells the end of the Broadway run of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” now set to close Jan. 20.

Although the small-scale tuner has seen box office slacken in recent months, the production has proven a success on the Rialto, yielding a run of close to three years and a Broadway cume that last week had hit $42.6 million.

Directed by James Lapine, the comedy, with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin, centers on a group of adolescent misfits competing for a spelling trophy. Concept (by Rebecca Feldman) originated as a play called “C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E.”

Tuner first bowed at Barrington Stage in Massachusetts. Following a hit run at Off Broadway’s Second Stage Theater in spring 2005, “Spelling Bee” transferred to Broadway that May and picked up two Tonys, one for Sheinkin and one for supporting actor Dan Fogler.

Rialto production quickly recouped, earning back its full $3.5 million capitalization in September 2005.

Since its Broadway bow, sit-down productions of “Bee” have played Chicago, San Francisco and Boston, and a national tour most recently played D.C. Musical also has been produced in Melbourne and Sydney.

An incarnation at Barrington Stage this summer will return the show to its Massachusetts roots, in a co-production with North Shore Music Theater in Beverly, Mass., which will run the tuner later in the summer.

Modest production demands of the musical make it a likely candidate for becoming a staple of regional theater.

“Spelling Bee” is produced on Broadway by David Stone (“Wicked”), James L. Nederlander, Barbara Whitman, Patrick Catullo, Barrington Stage Company and Second Stage Theater.

(Frank Rizzo in New Haven contributed to this report.)

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