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Cast, Creative Team Announced for Tony Award-Winning Musical 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee'

Performances February 7-23, 2020 in the beautiful Cabot Theatre

Milwaukee, Wis. (January 15, 2020) — Skylight Music Theatre today announced the cast and creative team for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, running February 7-23, 2020 in Skylight’s beautiful Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway, in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward.

Winner of two Tony Awards, the musical follows a group of quirky, socially awkward over-achievers who find joy, heartache and purpose as they compete at the regional spelling bee. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee charms audiences with its effortless wit and humor and fast-paced and touching story. Featuring music and lyrics by William Finn (Falsettos, A New Brain) and a Tony Award-winning book by Rachel Sheinkin, it’s a wildly funny, riotous ride where winning (and losing) isn't everything.

Director Brian Cowing Makes Skylight Debut

Brian Cowing will make his Skylight debut as director. Based in Madison, Wis., he has directed at Capital City Theatre, Four Seasons Theatre and Children’s Theatre of Madison. As an actor, he was featured in national tours of Annie and Something Rotten.

“There’s no denying that comedy really drives this piece,” said Cowing. “Spelling Bee is often times described as hilarious, zany, and kooky. But this show also succeeds in bringing true heart and relatability to its characters. The audience gets to experience each character’s insecurities, fears, and dreams. It’s this balance that makes it such a unique and beloved show.”

Part of the charm of the show is that no two performances are ever the same. Four audience volunteers are selected at each performance to participate onstage in scenes, songs, and choreography. Through improvisation and flexibility in the text, each performance is adjusted accordingly. 

Music Director for the show is David Bonofiglio, who returns to Skylight after music directing Oklahoma!, Urinetown, The Musical and Pippin. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee features a live, five-piece band.

Skylight Favorites Return to Stage

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee features longtime Skylight favorites and performers making their Skylight debuts. Kaylee Annable (Kiss Me, Kate, 2019) returns as Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre. James Carrington (Five Guys Named Moe, 2019) plays William Barfèe. Ryan Stajmiger (Sweeney Todd, 2017) returns as Leaf Coneybear. Shawn Holmes (The Gospel at Colonus, 2020) will play Mitch Mahoney. Samantha Sostarich (Hairspray, 2018) plays Rona Lisa Peretti. Robby McGhee (Violet, 2016) will be Douglas Panch.

Making their Skylight Music Theatre debuts are Kendyl Ito in the role of Marcy Park; Yando Lopez playing Chip Tolentino, and Amanda Rodriguez as Olive Ostrovsky.

‘Spelling Bee’s’ History Has Skylight Connection

In February 2004, after an initial workshop, the show was given a fuller production, which was co-directed by Feldman and Skylight’s current Artistic Director, Michael Unger. The musical opened Off-Broadway in February 2005 and premiered on Broadway in April 2005. This is the first time The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee has been produced at Skylight.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a brilliantly conceived, hilarious, and heartfelt musical that has the delightful distinction of integrating four volunteer audience members into the action of each show,” said Unger. “This unique combination of a wonderfully-crafted score and script, and inspired improvisation, offers Skylight audiences a one-of-a-kind experience that will tickle the funny-bone, warm the heart, and remind us all of the quirky misfits we may remember from our past; or even, if we are willing to admit it, that we may know within some small part of ourselves.”

In 2005, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee received Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Featured Actor. It also won three 2005 Drama Desk Awards and the 2005 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical. The show is recommended for ages 12 and up.

The New York Times said The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was "irresistible and entirely lovable,” praising William Finn's "nimble, upbeat score," and Rachel Sheinkin's "riotously funny" book.” The Wall Street Journal called it a “rarity of rarities, a super-smart show that is also a bona fide crowd-pleaser." Variety called it “winsome and winning…generously warm-hearted,” and Star-Ledger called it "a nifty musical gift.”

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Friday, February 7 – Sunday, February 23, 2020

Music and Lyrics by William Finn

Book by Rachel Sheinkin

Conceived by Rebecca Feldman

Directed by Brian Cowing

Music Director David Bonofiglio

Recommended for ages 12 and up

25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE CREATIVE TEAM

            Director............................................................................... Brian Cowing

            Music Director.................................................................. David Bonofiglio

            Costume Designer.................................................................. Alexae Visel

            Lighting Designer............................................................... Jamie Roderick

            Sound Designer........................................................... Tye Hunt Fitzgerald

            Stage Manager................................................................. Allyson Schiller*

*Appearing through an agreement between Skylight Music Theatre and Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE CAST

            Chip Tolentino.................................................................... Yando Lopez*

            Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre....................................... Kaylee Annable

            Leaf Coneybear................................................................. Ryan Stajmiger

            William Barfèe................................................................ James Carrington

            Marcy Park............................................................................. Kendyl Ito*

            Olive Ostrovsky............................................................ Amanda Rodriguez

            Rona Lisa Peretti........................................................ Samantha Sostarich

            Douglas Panch................................................................... Robby McGhee

            Mitch Mahoney................................................................... Shawn Holmes

*Denotes member of Actors' Equity Association

CREATIVE TEAM BIOGRAPHIES

Brian Cowing (Director) is a Wisconsin native making his Skylight debut. Regional credits include: Capital City Theatre’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, Four Seasons Theatre’s All Is Calm, SpamalotLes MisérablesShe Loves Me, and South Pacific. With Children’s Theater of Madison, Matilda, Tuck Everlasting, Seussical, and The Wizard of Oz. He was guest director and choreographer at Clinton Showboat Theatre, Binghamton University, and Oklahoma City University. As an actor, national tours: Annie and Something Rotten. Graduate of Oklahoma City University.

David Bonofiglio (Music Director) holds a BFA in piano performance from Cardinal Stritch University. Selected music director credits: Oklahoma!, Urinetown and Pippin for Skylight Music Theatre; Little By Little, Scrooge In Rouge, A Cudahy Caroler Christmas, and Jesus Christ Superstar for In Tandem Theatre; Sunday In The Park With George for Windfall Theatre. As assistant musical director: A Christmas Carol for Milwaukee Repertory Theater and as cover piano/conductor for Once On This Island and La Cage Aux Folles for Skylight Music Theatre.  

CAST BIOGRAPHIES

Yando Lopez* (Chip Tolentino) was last seen at the Marriott Theatre as King Julien in Madagascar, and at Drury Lane Theatre in their productions of Mamma Mia! and A Christmas Carol. Recent credits: Legally Blonde at Paramount Theatre, Forever Plaid at Theatre at the Center (Jeff Nomination), Spamilton at the Royal George (Jeff Nomination) and The Christians at Steppenwolf.

Kaylee Annable (Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre) Previous Skylight credits include: Lois/Bianca in Kiss Me Kate, Little Sally in Urinetown, Isabel in Pirates of Penzance, Little Red in Into the Woods, and Ensemble/US Cosette in Les Miserables. Regionally she was most recently seen as Jovie in Elf: The Musical at Derby Dinner Playhouse.

Ryan Stajmiger (Leaf Coneybear) has previously been seen at Skylight as Tobias in Sweeney Todd, Jack in Into The Woods, and Virgil in Violet. A graduate of CCPA at Roosevelt University, Ryan has worked with Chicago area theaters including Chicago Shakespeare, Drury Lane, Mercury Theater, Porchlight, Metropolis. He also performs with The Four C Notes, the premier Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tribute in the U.S.

James Carrington (William Barfèe) was last seen in Skylight’s Hot Mikado, Annie, Urinetown and recently as Four Eyed Moe in Five Guys Named Moe. He is a graduate of UW-Madison's Acting Specialist B.F.A. Program. Some favorite roles include Matt in Mr Burns: A Post Electric Play, Man 3 in The Ballad Of Emmett Till and The Lion in THE WIZ at First Stage Theatre.

Kendyl Ito (Marcy Park) is an NYC based actor. She was most recently seen as Jing/Prof. Li Biyu in Soft Power at The Public Theater. Other theater credits include: Hortensia in Matilda (1st National Tour), Jeongmoon in Locusts at The Yale Carlotta Festival, Heejin in Wild Goose Dreams at The Public Theater, and Connie Wong in A Chorus Line with director Baayork Lee.

Amanda Rodriguez (Olive Ostrovsky) was seen on the Nashville Children’s Theatre stage in the world premiere production of Return to Sender and on the new play Selena Maria Sings with Childsplay Theatre in Arizona.  Amanda has performed in Madison with Children’s Theatre of Madison, Music Theatre of Madison, and Capital City Theatre.  

Samantha Sostarich (Rona Lisa Peretti) was seen as Velma Von Tussle in Hairspray and Lily St. Regis in Annie with Skylight Music Theatre, Gretchen in Boeing Boeing with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Lady of the Lake in Monty Python’s Spamalot with Four Seasons Theatre, Mrs. Wormwood in Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical with Children’s Theater of Madison, and Fortuna in Fortuna the Timebender vs. The School Girls of Doom with Milwaukee Opera Theatre and Milwaukee Metro Voices. 

Robby McGhee (Douglas Panch) appeared as Radio Soloist/Leroy Evans in Skylight Music Theatre's production of Violet. He has recently been seen in web commercials for Pick n Save. He helped create All In Productions, a local theatre production company featuring Milwaukee talent. He has been a performer in Tall Boys Improv through Ampersand Theater for seven years.

Shawn Holmes (Mitch Mahoney) is currently in Skylight’s The Gospel at Colonus. He has performed with Florentine Opera, First Stage, Middleton Players Theatre, Black Arts MKE, and Four Seasons Theatre. He was Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Ragtime (winner of Best Actor in a Musical – Broadway World), and Jacob in La Cage aux Folles (winner of Best Supporting Actor in a Musical - Footlights). 

PERFORMANCE INFORMATION

Performances of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee are Friday, February 7 through Sunday, February 23 in the Cabot Theatre, Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway in the Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee.

BOX OFFICE

Tickets available at the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office, 158 N. Broadway, by calling (414) 291-7800, or visiting www.skylightmusictheatre.org

  • NOTE: Please let the Box Office know if accessible seating is needed, or if patrons will have a wheelchair or walker.
  • Box Office hours are Noon - 6 p.m. The Box Office window is also open two hours prior to performances.
  • Group discounts are available for parties of 10 or more by calling (414) 299-4972 or email emilyf@skylightmusictheatre.org
  • If you have ADA needs please contact the Box Office (414) 291-7800 or Tickets@skylightmusictheatre.org.

For more information visit www.skylightmusictheatre.org, email info@skylightmusictheatre.org

SPECIAL EVENTS

Skylight Insights. Free in-depth discussions with special guests one hour before Wednesday and Sunday performances.

ASL Performance. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will be interpreted in American Sign Language on Friday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m. Call Skylight Music Theatre's Box Office at (414) 291-7800 and mention ASL performance for seating in the appropriate section.

SKYLIGHT BAR & BISTRO

Skylight Bar & Bistro is located on the second floor of The Broadway Theatre Center. Open two hours before each performance featuring gourmet dining and fine wine by Indulge Wine Room. Reservations are recommended at www.skylightmusictheatre.org/bistro or by calling (414) 291-3773. Counter service is available without reservations.

PARKING VOUCHERS

Purchase $5 discounted parking vouchers from the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office for use in the Historic Third Ward parking garage at 212 N. Milwaukee Street (one block east and one block north). Vouchers are valid between 5 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. for evening performances. Matinee vouchers are valid 12-5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday. Not valid for Wednesday matinees. Voucher sales stop 30 minutes before showtime and are not available during intermission. No refunds.

Skylight Music Theatre’s 2019-2020 Season is sponsored by the United Performing Arts Fund, the Wisconsin Arts Board and CAMPAC, the Milwaukee County Arts Fund.

About Skylight Music Theatre

Skylight Music Theatre celebrates its 60th anniversary during the 2019-2020 season. Skylight’s mission since 1959: To bring the full spectrum of music theatre works to a wide and diverse audience in celebration of the musical and theatrical arts and their reflection of the human condition. Skylight presents productions “Skylight Style” – bringing fresh approaches or interesting twists to music theatre works, creating meaningful connections, not only between the characters on stage but with the audience as well. The beautiful, intimate Cabot Theatre allows audiences to feel close to the powerful emotions on stage.


  • The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

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