Gold stars all around.
— The New York Times
Six talented middle schoolers—played by equally talented adults—go head-to-head in this hilarious and heartwarming musical comedy. The rules are simple: Whoever proves the best speller on stage secures a spot at the national spelling bee. Falter on “crepuscular” or “hasenpfeffer”? Fall to pressure or puberty? Only a consolation juice box awaits. Sign up now for the sassy-sweet concoction that captures all the chaos, heartbreak, and elation of childhood competition.
Join TheatreWorks for Making a Musical, a special conversation with director Meredith McDonough and TheatreWorks Artistic Director Giovanna Sardelli. In this free event, peer behind the scenes and learn more about the process of bringing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee to life.
Mai Abe (Marcy Park) is thrilled to be making her regional theatre/TheatreWorks debut! She has also appeared in Next to Normal (Natalie) at Sunnyvale Players, Into the Woods (Little Red) at Foothill Music Theatre, and A Year with Frog and Toad (Bird 2/Lizard) at Bay Area Children's Theatre. With love and gratitude to her sweet babe, Momma, and Papa.
Dave J. Abrams (Chip Tolentino) is exultant to be making his TheatreWorks debut! He recently appeared in the Broadway-bound production of The Hippest Trip: the Soul Train Musical at ACT (u/s Tony Cornelius, Ensemble). His recent theater credits include Center Repertory Theater's In the Heights (Benny), Bay Area Musicals' Hairspray (Seaweed) for which he received a TBA Award for Outstanding Featured Actor, and Berkeley Playhouse's Ragtime (Coalhouse) which led him to receive a TBA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Principal Role. Dave earned a BA in Theater and Dance from the University of California, Berkeley. He also works as a teaching artist allowing him to further share his passion for the performing arts with others. “May you all enjoy this incredible show!” IG: @davejabrams
Molly Bell (Rona Lisa Peretti, Dance Captain) has performed with TheatreWorks in Snapshots, Bat Boy, Merrily We Roll Along, A Little Princess, Floyd Collins, and Memphis. Her regional credits include numerous appearances at Center Rep, San Jose Rep, Marin Theatre Company, and American Musical Theatre of San Jose. Molly is the playwright and composer behind Real Housewives The Musical, produced by the legendary Garry Marshall, and Becoming Britney, both of which are published by Broadway Licensing. She is presently cultivating her solo musical, Hysterical, recently workshopped at the Hillbarn Theater. MissMollyBell.com
Beau Bradshaw (William Barfée) is a New York-based actor. He is thrilled to be on the West Coast making his TheatreWorks debut! National Tour: The SpongeBob Musical (First National). Other credits: Avenue Q and Grease (Axelrod PAC), Henry and Mudge (TheaterWorksUSA), Kiss Me, Kate (Pittsburgh Playhouse). Beau earned his BFA in Musical Theatre from Point Park University. Endless love to his wife, Amanda. Psalm 40:1-3.
Maia Campbell (Olive Ostrovsky) is ecstatic to be making her debut at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. Most recently, she has been seen in the Bay Area in Berkeley Playhouse’s Kinky Boots (Pat), and in Spring Awakening (Martha) at Ray of Light Theatre. Other favorite credits include Fun Home (Medium Alison) at Berkeley Playhouse and Rent (Mimi) at Landmark Musical Theatre. She is currently studying theatre at SFSU and will continue to pursue her Bachelor’s degree at MIT this coming spring. She would like to thank her family and friends for their unwavering support; she would be unable to do this without them.
Jenni Chapman (Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre) has performed with TheatreWorks in the world premiere of A Christmas Memory (Nelle Harper) and To Kill A Mockingbird (Scout u/s – performed). They also appeared in Next To Normal (Henry) at Sunnyvale Players, Men On Boats (Bradley) at Palo Alto Players, Into the Woods (Little Red) at Broadway by the Bay, and Peter and the Starcatcher (Molly Aster) at South Bay Musical Theatre. For my wife. @jennichapmanphotography
Blake Kevin Dwyer (Leaf Coneybear) is thrilled to be returning to the Bay for the Spelling Bee! Blake is a queer actor with a love for comedy. His recent theatre credits include Hand To God (Coachella Valley Repertory), Fun Home (Coachella Valley Repertory), and Title of Show (Up Next). His television credits include: With Love (Amazon), Good Trouble (Freeform), and Saved By The Bell (Peacock). He holds a Theatre Degree from Loyola Marymount University and is actively studying improv at the Groundlings Theatre in Los Angeles. He would like to give special thanks and love to his husband Peter and his entire family. @Blakekevindwyer
John R. Lewis (Understudy, Barfée/Panch/Mitch) is happy to be making his main stage debut with TheatreWorks. He recently appeared at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Clyde’s (Rafael) and at the Pear Theatre as the title role in Richard II. Other regional acting credits include Cal Shakes, ACT, Marin Theatre Company, Center REPertory Theatre, the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. His directing credits include The River Bride, Somewhere, and The Rocky Horror Show. Mr. Lewis studied at Southern Oregon University in Ashland and is a founding member of City Street Artists, a corrections artist with Red Ladder Theatre Company, a consultant for the Bay Area Casting Collective, and the administrator of Bay Area Theatre Folks.
Romelo Urbi (Understudy, Leaf/Chip/Barfée) is delighted to be making his TheatreWorks debut understudying Leaf, Chip, and Barfée. His favorite credits include Little Shop of Horrors (Seymour) and Into the Woods (Jack) with Berkeley Playhouse, Spring Awakening (Melchior) with Ghostlight Theatricals, and The Last Five Years (Jamie) at Cal Poly SLO. He would like to thank his loved ones for their unwavering love and support. IG: @romelourbi
Anthone Jackson (Mitch Mahoney) is blessed to be making his debut with TheatreWorks. Notable Bay Area productions have included I, Too, Sing America with Bay Area Theatre Company (productions and original recording); Caroline, or Change (Dryer) with Ray of Light Theatre; Big River (Jim) with Southbay Musical Theatre (TBA Award Recipient); Sister Act (Curtis) with Berkeley Playhouse; Dreamgirls (Curtis) and Smokey Joe’s Café (Adrian) with Broadway by the Bay; Memphis (Bobby) and Violet (Flick) with Tabard; The Color Purple (Mister) and To Kill a Mockingbird (Tom) with Hillbarn; and African American Shakespeare Company’s Cinderella (Prince). Anthone also works as a Director of School Partnerships with awesome students for a non-profit and serves on Hillbarn's Board. Anthone thanks his wife Ashlee and their kids Averee, Aubree, and Amanee for supporting and allowing him to dream. Connect at AnthoneOnStage or @AnthoneJsings
Lee Ann Payne (Understudy, Rona) has performed with TheatreWorks in Emma (Mrs. Weston), Norman Rockwell’s America (Mary), and Josephine (Ensemble) along with numerous writers’ retreats and staged readings. New York credits include The Snow Queen at the NY Musical Festival and the Narrator of Peter and the Wolf at Lincoln Center. Ms. Payne has appeared on stages throughout the Bay Area including, 42nd Street Moon, SF Playhouse, San Jose Repertory Theatre, and Jewel Theatre. She earned her MFA in Musical Theatre from San Diego State University.
Christopher Reber (Douglas Panch) returns to TheatreWorks after appearing in Rags (Jack), Cyrano (Ragueneau), and Peter and the Starcatcher (Alf). Other Bay Area appearances include Company (BATC Nominee), Jerusalem, La Cage aux Folles, and A Christmas Story at San Francisco Playhouse; Rough Crossing, Forever Plaid, Me and My Girl, Talley’s Folly, Next to Normal, Guys and Dolls, Pump Boys and Dinettes, Arcadia, and Gunmetal Blues with Jewel Theatre Company; Three Sisters and Merrily We Roll Along at 42nd Street Moon; Gypsy, It’s Only a Play, Anything Goes, A Christmas Carol, and The Full Monty at Hillbarn. Chris is a proud member of Actors’ Equity.
Jillian A. Smith (Understudy, Olive/Logainne/Marcy) is stoked to be making her TheatreWorks debut understudying Olive, Logainne, and Marcy in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Her regional credits include A Chorus Line (Bebe Benzenheimer) and As You Like It (De Boys Dancer) at SF Playhouse, Anything Goes (Erma) and Mame (Gloria Upson) at 42nd Street Moon, The Comedy of Errors (Adriana) and Life is a Cabernet (Polly McCaw) at SPARC, Kinky Boots (Maggie) at Ray of Light, Blood at the Root (Toria) at Custom Made Theatre, and The Last Five Years (Jamie) at Barestage Productions. Jillian trained in ballet at the Bolshoi Academy in Moscow, and received her BA in Computer Science from UC Berkeley. She’d like to thank her family, friends, and teachers for their unwavering support and kindness.
WILLIAM FINN (Music and Lyrics) is the writer and composer of Falsettos, for which he received two Tony Awards, Best Book of a Musical (with James Lapine), and Best Original Score. He has also written and composed In Trousers, March of the Falsettos, and Falsettoland (Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, two Los Angeles Drama Critic's Awards, two Drama Desk Awards, the Lucille Lortel Award, and Guggenheim Fellowship in Musical Composition). Mr. Finn wrote the lyrics to Graciela Daniele's Tango Apasionado (music by the great Astor Piazzolla) and, with Michael Starobin, the music to Lapine's version of The Winter's Tale. His musical, Romance in Hard Times, was presented at the Public Theater. Recently, he wrote Painting You for Love's Fire, a piece commissioned and performed by the Acting Company, based on Shakespeare's sonnets. For television, Mr. Finn provided the music and lyrics for the Ace Award-winning HBO cartoon "Ira Sleeps Over," "Tom Thumb and Thumbelina," "Pokey Little Puppy's First Christmas," and, with Ellen Fitzhugh, two "Brave Little Toaster" cartoons. Mr. Finn has written for Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and The New Yorker. A graduate of Williams College where he was awarded the Hutchinson Fellowship for Musical Composition, Mr. Finn now teaches a weekly master class at the NYU Tisch Graduate Program in Musical Theatre Writing. His most recent projects include Elegies, A Song Cycle (Lincoln Center), and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee which ran on Broadway and has been produced nationally and internationally, as well.
JAY REISS is a playwright. He is a Juilliard graduate and provided additional material to the book for THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE. Reiss appeared in the original workshops, Off-Broadway cast, and Broadway cast of the musical as Vice Principal Douglas Panch.
WILLIAM LIBERATORE (Music Director) is TheatreWorks’ Resident Musical Director and has conducted 49 shows, including Ragtime, Tuck Everlasting, Fun Home, Rags, Sweeney Todd, Once on This Island (TBA Award), Crowns, and Pacific Overtures. He was Musical Director at American Musical Theatre of San Jose, conducting over 30 shows including Gypsy, A Chorus Line, 42nd Street, and Follies. He has won Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards for A Little Night Music, South Pacific, Damn Yankees (AMTSJ), and Bat Boy; Into the Woods; Emma; Caroline, or Change; The Light in the Piazza, The Four Immigrants, The Bridges of Madison County, and Ragtime (TheatreWorks). He is also the director of the award-winning Gunn High School Choirs, and was the recipient of Palo Alto’s Tall Tree Award as the Outstanding Professional in 2023.
ANDREA BECHERT (Scenic Design) has designed 39 productions with TheatreWorks, including Steel Magnolias, Fun Home, Native Gardens, Crimes of the Heart, and Night of the Iguana. Ms. Bechert designs for theaters across the country including Berkeley Rep, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, the Cleveland Playhouse, Jewel Theatre Co., Chautauqua Theatre Co., American Musical Theatre of San Jose, Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Co., the Starlight Theatre, Opera San José, Center REPertory Theatre, and many others. Awards include several Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle awards, the Silicon Valley Laureate Award, and a Denver Ovation Award. Her designs were included in the World Design Expo and Prague Quadrennial. She teaches design at San José State University and is a member of United Scenic Artists Local-829, where she serves as Exam Committee Chair.
JEFF MOCKUS (Sound Design) has designed over 25 TheatreWorks productions, including Little Shop of Horrors (BATCC nomination), Lizard Boy (BATCC Award), tokyo fish story, Jane Austen’s Emma (BATCC Nomination), and [title of show]. Recent work includes Baskerville for Hillbarn Theatre, Winchester Mystery House’s Unhinged Housewarming, Anything Goes for Center REP (BATCC Nomination), The Children at Aurora Theatre Company (BATCC Nomination), and Love Goddess, The Rita Hayworth Cabaret for Blue Panther Productions. Mr. Mockus served in residence at San Jose Rep on over 70 productions, including Old Wicked Songs (BATCC award), By The Bog Of Cats (BATCC award), and Mary’s Wedding (Dean Goodman Choice award). soundcloud.com/jeff-mockus
TAYLOR MCQUESTEN (Stage Manager) works internationally as a stage and tour manager, electrician, and stuntwoman. Select credits include 10 seasons at Tony Award-winning TheatreWorks Silicon Valley (Resident Stage Manager), Production Stage Manager for Lizard Boy, Tour Manager for Evan Rachel Wood and Zane Carney’s band EVAN+ZANE, SF Sketchfest (Assistant Technical Director), California Shakespeare Theater (Production Electrician), Presidio Theatre (Interim Company Manager), Legion A/V (Head of Lighting), Playfaire Productions (Swordswoman), The Independent SF (Lighting Designer), Highlander Films (Production Assistant), American Conservatory Theater, Center REP, Cabrillo Stage, Hillbarn Theatre, and Magic Theatre. She also trains historic mêlée weapons at Davenriche European Martial Arts School under master swordsman, Sir Steáphen Fick.
Broadway: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Tony, Drama Desk awards); Off-Broadway: Striking 12 (Lucille Lortel nomination), Off-Off: Serenade. Regional: Guthrie, Little House on the Prairie; Center Theatre Group, Sleeping Beauty Wakes (Los Angeles Ovation Award); London: Blood Drive. Residencies, fellowships, and commissions include: Eugene O'Neill National Theater Center, Baryshnikov Dance Foundation, MacDowell Colony, Manhattan Theatre Club, Deaf West, McCarter Theatre, Playwrights Horizons. Rachel is a volunteer mentor for TDF's Open Doors program, a visiting instructor at Yale School of Drama, and adjunct faculty member of NYU's Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program.
JAMES LAPINE is a playwright and director. On Broadway he has worked with Stephen Sondheim on Sunday in the Park with George; Into the Woods; and Passion. He also conceived and directed the musical review Sondheim on Sondheim. With William Finn he created Falsettos recently revived by Lincoln Center Theater; Little Miss Sunshine; Muscle; and directed Finn's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Other Broadway credits include his play based on Moss Hart's memoir Act One (also LCT), Amour, The Diary of Anne Frank, Golden Child, and Dirty Blonde. He has written the plays Table Settings, Twelve Dreams, The Moment When, Fran's Bed and Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing. Lapine has been nominated for eleven Tony Awards, winning on three occasions. He has also been the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, SDC's Mr. Abbott Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater, and inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame.
LEE ANN PAYNE (Choreographer) is making her debut as a part of the creative team, having been a cast member in previous TheatreWorks productions. Ms. Payne’s credits include the Co-Choreographer for The Snow Queen at the New York Musical Festival. Locally, she has choreographed for 42nd Street Moon, Jewel Theatre, Hillbarn Theatre, and Palo Alto Players among others. She won a TBA Award for her choreography for Hillbarn Theatre (Anything Goes) along with the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle for the overall production. Ms. Payne holds an MFA in Musical Theater from San Diego State University, teaches dance at Zohar School of Dance in Palo Alto, and moonlights as the CFO of Montalvo Arts Center.
COURTNEY FLORES-KERRIGAN (Costume Designer) is designing her first show at TheatreWorks with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. She most recently designed costumes for Center Repertory Company’s production of In the Heights and Aurora Theatre Company’s productions of Wives and Father/Daughter. Mrs. Flores-Kerrigan has designed costumes for productions for theatre companies across the country. She holds an MFA from San Francisco State University and is currently adjunct lecturer at San Jose State University and California State University East Bay. You can find more of her work at www.CourtneyFlores.com.
Roxie Johnson (Hair and Wig Design) is proud to be collaborating with TheatreWorks. Her most recent shows with TheatreWorks are Mrs. Christie, Little Shop of Horrors, They Promised Her the Moon, and Pride & Prejudice. She is currently attending SFSU for theatre graduate studies and has almost completed her Theatre Studies MA. She has worked on many plays for 6th Street Playhouse, Sonoma Arts Live, Sonoma State University, Los Altos Players, Santa Rosa Junior College, and West Edge Opera designing Wigs, Hair, and Makeup for shows such
as Wedding Singer, Georgia McBride, Sunset Boulevard, Magic Flute, Sunday in the Park with George, The Opera Nightingale, and the Mariachi Opera Cruzar la Cara de la Luna. She currently teaches Special Effects, Makeup, and Wig Styling Classes at SRJC.
EMILY ANDERSON WOLF (Assistant Stage Manager) has been the Assistant Stage Manager for TheatreWorks’ Little Shop of Horrors, Archduke, Frost/Nixon, Fun Home, Crimes of the Heart, Jane Austen’s Emma, Triangle, Fire on the Mountain, Peter and the Starcatcher, Sweeney Todd, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Little Women, and Other Desert Cities. She was also the Assistant Stage Manager for threesixty Entertainment’s First National Tour of Peter Pan; Journey to the West at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and with American Musical Theatre of San Jose. Ms. Wolf also works as a stagehand throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and is a proud member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. She holds a BA in Theatre, Cum Laude from Mount Holyoke College.
REBECCA FELDMAN is the conceiver of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for which she won a Lucille Lortel Award, Drama Desk, and Tony Nomination for Best Musical. She directed its world premiere at Barrington Stage Company in the summer of 2004.
Rebecca is Associate Producer on TRANSPARENT, the MUSICAL FINALE and served as Staff Writer on the finale as well. She is currently developing an episodic drama with Big Kid Pictures, called LA COYOTE, which has been selected to the WeForShe’s 2019 Writeher List.
She is an alumna of the Lincoln Center Director's Lab as well as the AFI Directing Workshop for Women where she won the Jean Firstenburg Award for Best Short.
Her short films include, MY FIRST TIME DRIVING (AFI Jean Firstenburg Award, Best Short at Lake Arrowhead Film Fest, Best of Shorts at Outfest), A/V CLUB (TV Pilot, NYTVF), UBER ALICE (Woodstock Film Fest), DEAD CAT (Producer, Tribeca Film Fest), and IRVING (Official Selection Rhode Island Film Fest, Official Selection USA Film Fest, Ft. Lauderdale Film Fest, Atlanta Jewish Film Fest).
MEREDITH MCDONOUGH (Director) was the Director of New Works at TheatreWorks from 2009 – 2012, where favorite projects include Auctioning the Ainsleys and title of show. She was the Associate Artistic Director at Actors Theatre of Louisville for seven seasons where her favorite directing includes Angels in America, Peter and the Starcatcher, and the premieres of Colman Domingo’s Dot, and Airness. Regionally, favorites include The Lily’s Revenge with Taylor Mac (Magic Theatre), the world premiere of Emma and Noises Off (Guthrie), Falsettos (Latte Da), The 39 Steps (Denver Center), Fair Use (Steppenwolf), Private Lives, and Lifespan of a Fact (St Louis REP), and the US premiere of NSFW (Roundhouse). She was the New Works Director for the National Alliance for Musical Theatre and a Drama League Fellow. Education: Northwestern; MFA, UCSD.
JAMES MONROE IGLEHART (Creative Producer) is a multi-award winning actor currently appearing as "King Arthur" in the Broadway Revival of Monty Python’s Spamalot. Iglehart is a 15 year Broadway veteran performing in such productions as the longest-running American Musical on Broadway Chicago. He has appeared in the musical Hamilton, Freestyle Love Supreme, and won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor for his comedic turn as "Genie" in Disney’s Aladdin the Musical. He has been seen on TV in shows like the Netflix series "Maniac," "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," "Elementary," "Law & Order: SVU," and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."
Iglehart has also headlined sold-out concerts across the country including the Hollywood Bowl and two appearances at Carnegie Hall. He is also an Emmy nominated voice-over actor lending his voice to many animated characters from Disney, Nickelodeon, and Apple TV. He has also used his writing talents to write stories for Marvel Comics. His greatest triumphs are his kids and being a husband to his wife Dawn of over 20 years.
STEVEN B. MANNSHARDT (Lighting Designer) has been the lighting designer for over 100 productions at TheatreWorks, having won numerous awards for his work. His regional design credits include Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven; A Contemporary Theatre, Seattle; American Repertory Theater, Cambridge; Studio Arena Theatre, Buffalo; Magic Theatre; and Pasadena Playhouse. He currently teaches lighting design, scenic art, properties construction, and stage management at San Jose State University. Mr. Mannshardt also runs an organization dedicated to improving the education system for both children and adults in Nepal. wwep.orghttps://www.wwep.org/
JUDITH NIHEI (Artist Counselor) is a San Francisco-based licensed psychotherapist in private practice. She has been a theatre director, dramaturg, writer, actor, and administrator. A founding member of Seattle’s Northwest Asian American Theatre, she returned home to work with San Francisco’s Asian American Theatre Company and began a long career in improv with The Committee. She consults for schools, nonprofits, and community-based organizations, facilitating the incorporation of stress-reduction and cultural humility as an integral part of trauma-informed services. Clients have included Edgewood Center for Children and Families, Japanese Community Youth Council, and Theatre Communications Group, Inc. She continues her improv career as one of The Bad Aunties.
Jarku Tang (Associate Lighting Designer) is delighted to return for his 11th season at TheatreWorks, where he most recently worked on Nan and the Lower Body (Production Electrician) and Sense and Sensibility (Assistant Lighting Designer). Locally, he has designed lighting for Stanford Theatre and Performance Studies (The World of Extreme Happiness, The Mammaries of Tiresias), Stanford Asian American Theatre Project (The Last Five Years, Purple Cloud, Durango), Los Altos Stage Company (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), and Renegade Theatre Experiment (The North Plan), among others. Mr. Tang has also been the Master Electrician of West Bay Opera, Palo Alto Players, Silicon Valley Shakespeare, and City Lights Theatre Company. He holds a BA from Stanford University.