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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (2005 Original Broadway Cast) Cast Recording

4.2 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Cast Recording, May 31, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

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When was the last time you heard a musical with a truly hilarious book? Rachel Sheinkin has concocted such a thing for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, one of the most unexpected hits of 2005. Unfortunately, Sheinkin's wit is mostly lost on a cast album; fortunately, the show's songs are by the great William Finn. Set at the titular event, the musical never looks down on the competiting kids (played by adult actors), instead portraying them as endearingly nerdy but also smart, and endowing them with real personalities rather than predictably spelling-bee tics. The cast is uniformly superb, although personal faves include Sarah Saltzberg, playing Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre with a delicious lisp ("Woe Is Me"); Jesse Tyler Ferguson, bringing sweet innocence to Leaf Coneybear ("I'm Not That Smart"); and Dan Fogler, in a breakout comic performance as William Barfee ("Magic Foot," sounding like a sly tribute to Kander & Ebb). This show may be small in scale, but it's a huge winner. --Elisabeth Vincentelli

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 31, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Cast Recording
  • Label: Ghostlight Records
  • ASIN: B0009A1AMS
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,626 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
There's something irresistibly endearing about seeing children perform publicly, given how vulnerable they seem (and are); and there is also something incredibly funny about seeing them exhibit overconfidence when they're in such vulnerable circumstances. This is the combination the creators of THE 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE hit upon that has made the show such a success: the show's situation is almost a guaranteed winner, and given the comic talents of the ensemble (particularly Dan Fogler as the bizarre William Barfee and Sarah Strasman as the indomitable Schwartzy), the show is really a deserved hit. William Finn's music and lyrics are strong, but they are not the very strongest part of this show, unfortunately. It would have been great had this been a double-disc so we might have heard more of the comic interplay between the children and among them and the faculty members running the contest (I would have especially loved to have heard more of the wickedly funny sentences the spelling words are used in, whicvh is one of the comic highlights of the show). But, that being said, this CD does give you Fogler's showstopping "Magic Foot" shuffle number, Deborah S. Craig giving vent to Marcy Park's fearsome hypercompetence in "I Speak Six languages," and the beautiful repeated "Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye" motif running throughout the show.
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Format: Audio CD
The 25th...Spelling Bee is one of the most creative shows since Avenue Q. The music isn't huge or in your face like your normal blockbuster.

Spelling Bee, though in the same boat as everything else by Bill Finn, is very different. His show is off-beat, pokes fun, fufills Finn's seeming requirement to have at least a single gay couple and a song that would be improper to sing in front of your conservative mother (My Unfortunate Erection).

But, it is different in many ways. First, this show gets its roots in improvisationsal theater, something never before on Broadway as far as I know (at least in musical format). Also, unlike Finn's other work, this musical is more lyrical. the songs are very singable, and will stick in your head.

The cast is unbelievably talented, with virtual unknowns in every part. Of course, now that Dan Fogler won the Tony for best featured actor, that no longer holds true. The individual voices are well placed-enough character voice to get the point across, without going overboard to ugly (like John tartaglia as Rod in Avenue Q). And the blend of the cast is also amazing. In the rucurring song, Goodbye, every note is clear, but you get the mix of the notes, not individual parts, also not accomplished by Avenue Q (which is the main show this score is compared to).

Songs that are particularly strong vocally are:

"I Speak Six Languages", which is a wonderful melody that is playful with the slightest hint of frustration in a twelve year old. It is a beautiful song meant to sound like a little girl whining. It hits the mark.

"My Unfortunate Erection (Chip's Lament)", so funny, and powerful melodically. Easy to oversing, but Jose Llana does it perfectly, properly maoning his problem with peuberty.
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Format: Audio CD
I saw The 25th Annual...Spelling Bee two days ago and it has automatically made itself a snug place in my heart as one of the best musicals I've ever seen. The whole cast fits together perfectly like a puzzle--I can't even imagine how it will be once one of these amazing actors moves on and must be replaced.

However, the cast recording, though the music is great, does not do the show much justice. Somebody suggested there be a second disc with some of the dialogue, and I second that idea. The funniest part of this show was the writing. Nearly every word that escaped an actor's lips brought even just a smile to everyone's face, and it wasn't done with off-color jokes and offensive words like most comedy in today's generation of entertainment.

If you haven't seen the show yet, I suggest you do so before purchasing this recording. The songs just don't mean as much if you haven't experienced the wonderful phenomenon that is The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
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Format: Audio CD
Though I have not yet seen the actual musical, I can easily tell that this show is the anthesis of 'big budget' bashes. As compared often in earlier reviews, think Avenue Q... perhaps also Rent, as well as any prior Finn musical. Think small, intimate, and highly character-driven.

YOU'RE QUITE APT TO ENJOY THIS SHOW / THE ALBUM IF...

- You like musicals by Finn (Falsettos, New Brain...)

- You don't really care about sets, costumes, etc.

- You're fine with small, 'moderate' musical ensembles (as opposed to big lush orchestras or rockin' loud combos).

- You sympathize with geeks / nerds / underdogs.

YOU MAY NOT FALL IN LOVE WITH THIS SHOW IF...

- Your favorite musicals involve large props, explosions (Sunset Blvd, Lion King)

- You hope to hear songs you're already familiar with (e.g., Mamma Mia, whatever that Beatles musical is, etc.)

- You're into primarily "weighty" themes or deep love stories (Les Miz, Miss Saigon).

* * *

Other thoughts about this cast album, in part echoing what others have duly noted:

- Enunciation is stellar.

- Balance (amongst parts, between singers and musicians) is excellent.

- Sound quality is quite good... crisp, vibrant.

- Characters' voices are indeed "affected"... but IMHO, very rarely so much as to deter from the enjoyment (and repeat listening enjoyment) of the score.

- While you can tell that this music is Finn'ish, there's enough variety in feel amongst the songs that you aren't likely to get bored.

* * *

Anyway, in case you couldn't tell, I really adored this score and can't wait to see the show in NY (or, here in SF when it finally goes on tour!) I'm eager to support shows like this that are warm, written and performed by people who seem to genuinely care about their characters AND respect the maturity and good will of the audience.
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Accompaniment Track for 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
I'm also looking for the same thing, but the internet says there is no track available (copyright issues?) Have you had any luck?
Dec 20, 2007 by Lori |  See all 2 posts
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