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Putnam County Spelling Bee earns back its budget

Putnam County Spelling Bee earns back its budget

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is in the black. The show has now joined a select group of Broadway productions from last season that have recouped their investments. Spelling Bee is the only musical in this profitable club, whose membership includes Doubt, The Pillowman, Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Julius Caesar, starring Denzel Washington.

The musical, which has a score by gay composer William Finn and a book by Rachel Sheinkin, recouped its $3.5 million investment in only 18 weeks, producer David Stone said Monday, very good for a musical. Many musicals take a year or more to pay back. Spelling Bee, playing at Circle in the Square, was helped by its low weekly running costs--less than $300,000, according to Stone--and good word of mouth, which the producer characterized as explosive. "We opened May 2, and by the third week in June, we were selling out," said Stone, producer of another musical helped by positive reaction from theatergoers--Wicked.

Several other shows from last season most likely will recoup too, particularly Monty Python's Spamalot, which last week again broke the house record at the Shubert Theatre. The $12 million production, which won the 2005 Tony Award for Best Musical, grossed more than $1.05 million during the traditionally slow week after Labor Day. The $10 million Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which stars John Lithgow and Norbert Leo Butz, also has the potential to end up in the profit column. It has been doing sturdy if not sellout business since opening last March. (AP)

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