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CFA Alum on Broadway

Sarah Saltzberg (CFA’98) helped create the Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Sarah Saltzberg (CFA’98) created the character she plays in the Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee when it was a small play called C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E. Now, the critically acclaimed show has a sister production in Boston, which is playing at the Wilbur Theatre through December 31.

“It’s a pretty amazing thing to see that you can create something and somebody can go out and make it their own,” says Saltzberg, who plays Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre in the musical.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is the tale of six overachieving prepubescent children who learn about winning and losing by competing in a spelling bee championship. “It’s sophisticated humor,” says Saltzberg, “and there’s something edgy about it that people aren’t really expecting.” The musical also involves audience participation.
When Saltzberg’s friend Liz Feldman (COM’99) mentioned in 2002 that her sister Rebecca wanted to put on a show about a spelling bee, Saltzberg jumped at the idea. She and the rest of the cast — including other BU alumni — performed the show for three days at the Theatorium in New York City. “We realized we were really onto something. This was touching a chord somewhere,” says Saltzberg, who coproduced the show.

The cast got its big break after a second run. Saltzberg had worked as a nanny for the daughter of the late playwright Wendy Wasserstein and invited Wasserstein to see the show. “She totally loved it and wanted us to make it a musical,” says Saltzberg.

And the musical took off from there. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee continues to play in Broadway’s Circle in the Square Theatre, and there are two other productions, in Boston and Chicago, as well as a national tour.  

Brittany Jasnoff can be reached at bjasnoff@bu.edu.