Originally inspired by a play called C-R-E-P-U-S-C-L-E produced by the improvisation company The Farm, of whom Wendy Wasserstein’s nanny, Sarah Saltzberg, was a member. Wasserstein was impressed by the production and introduced the team, including Saltzberg and creator Rebecca Feldman, to William Finn, believing that he could help them take the project to the next level. The collaboration was fruitful, and Finn, Feldman, and writer Rachel Sheinkin collaborated to create the full-length musical that became The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
After individual workshops of the first and second acts in 2004, the developing musical opened at the off-Broadway theatre Second Stage Theatre on February 7, 2005. The production received near-universal positive reviews, sold out its entire run, extended, and broke Second Stage’s box office records. It closed on March 20, 2005, and in less than a month, opened on Broadway at the Circle in the Square theatre. The cast was from the Second Stage production was retained for the Broadway transfer, and included Celia Keenan Bolger (Olive), Dan Fogler (William), Sarah Saltzberg (Logainne), Deborah S. Craig (Marcy), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Leaf), Jose Llana (Chip), Lisa Howard (Rona), Derrick Baskin (Mitch), and Jay Reiss (Panch).
Note: While the spellers are children they are usually played by adult actors.