Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Jenni Barber joins Original Cast of THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE for 10th Anniversary Benefit Concert on July 6

(Front row): Celia Keenan-Bolger, Dan Fogler, Sarah Saltzberg; (back row): Jose Llana, Deborah S. Craig, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the young spellers in ``The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,'' Circle in the Square. Photo by Joan Marcus

(Front row): Celia Keenan-Bolger, Dan Fogler, Sarah Saltzberg; (back row): Jose Llana, Deborah S. Craig, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the young spellers in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Circle in the Square. Photo by Joan Marcus

Jenni Barber

Jenni Barber

Eight original cast members of the hit Broadway musical, THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE -Derrick Baskin, Deborah S. Craig, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Dan Fogler, Lisa Howard, Jose Llana, Jay Reiss, and Sarah Saltzberg – will reunite for a special one-night-only 10 Year Anniversary benefit concert on Monday, July 6 at 7:30pm at Town Hall (123 West 43rd Street). reports that Jenni Barber (A New Brain) will take on the role of Olive Ostrovsky, replacing original cast member Tony nominee Celia Keenan-Bolger, who was scheduled to perform. Keenan-Bolger has withdrawn from the event “due to the demands of being mom to a newborn.” Barber was Keenan-Bolger’s replacement in the show’s original Broadway run.

theatermania: Celia Keenan-Bolger Bows Out of Spelling Bee Reunion Concert

Benefit tickets, priced $50, $100, $150, $250, and $500 are available at $500 tickets include premium seating and invitation to the private post-performance reception with the original cast members and creative team.

The evening will also feature celebrity guest spellers, who will attempt to beat Putnam County’s spelling legends, including Chip Tolentino, William Barfee, and Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre.

The one-night-only event will benefit The Actors Fund’s Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative and is being held in memory of Andrea “Spook” Testani Gordon, the beloved production stage manager of the original Broadway and off-Broadway production, who passed away on November 30, 2014 following a battle with cancer.

This special concert is being directed by James Lapine and Darren Katz, featuring musical direction by Vadim Feichtner and Carmel Dean, and is produced by The Actors Fund with Natalie Gershtein as line producer.

THE 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE was produced by David Stone, James L. Nederlander,Barbara Whitman, Patrick Catullo, Barrington Stage Company and Second Stage Theatre.

THE 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE features book by Rachel Sheinkin, music and lyrics byWilliam Finn, and direction by James Lapine. Based on “C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E,” an original play by The Farm, the production was conceived by Rebecca Feldman and featured additional material by Jay Reiss. It premiered on Broadway on May 2, 2005 following sold-out runs at Second Stage Theatre and the Barrington Stage Company. The critically acclaimed musical was nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and won two: Best Book of a Musical (Rachel Sheinkin) and Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Dan Fogler). The production ran for nearly three years closing on January 20, 2008 after playing 1,136 performances.

Andrea “Spook” Testani Gordon passed away November 30, 2014 following a battle with cancer. She was 46. Known to all by the nickname, “Spook,” Mrs. Gordon’s many Broadway credits include Side Man, I Am My Own Wife, and revivals of Uncle Vanya, The Man Who Came to Dinner, The Man Who Had All the Luck, All My Sons and Design for Living. Following the Broadway production, Spook went on to open companies of Spelling Bee around the country and on National Tour.

The Actors Fund is a national human services organization that helps everyone-performers and those behind the scenes-who works in performing arts and entertainment, helping more than 21,000 people directly each year, and hundreds of thousands online. Serving professionals in film, theatre, television, music, opera, radio and dance, The Fund’s programs include social services and emergency financial assistance, health care and insurance counseling, housing, and employment and training services. With offices in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, The Actors Fund has been-for 133 years-a safety net for those in need, crisis or transition. Visit

The Actors Fund’s Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative (PNWHI) was initiated by Actors Fund trustee and cancer survivor Phyllis Newman, and was created to address the myriad of concerns women face when dealing with a serious medical condition. When women come to The Fund after a serious medical diagnosis they are often overwhelmed with concerns about their ability to work, family issues, managing basic bills as well as medical bills, and coping both physically and mentally with a challenging medical situation. The PNWHI Social Workers help women negotiate the steps that follow a serious medical diagnosis. Through intensive case management, access to individual counseling, support groups, educational seminars, linkage to community supports and short-term financial assistance, the social workers help women receive the nurturing support that they need. Visit


Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon and Taxman. She has guest starred on “One Life to Live,” “As the World Turns,” and “New York Undercover.” She is profiled in Jade Magazine.

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Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at


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