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Theatre Review Print

Broadway at Duke: Understudy Kristin Stewart Gets Her Chance to Star in Wonderful Town - and Sparkles

November 29, 2006 - Durham, NC:

Music Theatre Associates’ 2006 non-Equity national tour of Tony Award®-winning 2003 Broadway revival of Wonderful Town, which Broadway at Duke brought to Page Auditorium on Nov. 29th, gave understudy Kristin Stewart a chance to star—and, oh boy, did she sparkle. Stewart confidently stepped into the lead role of somewhat plain and undeniably prickly aspiring writer Ruth Sherwood, substituting for tour headliner Deborah Lynn, and quickly demonstrated a fine flair for comedy. Stewart was quick with a quip and sure with a lyric. She delighted Broadway at Duke with her solo of “One Hundred Easy Ways too Lose a Man” and her duets with co-star Allison Berry, who played beautiful blonde and utterly adorable aspiring actress Eileen Sherwood, especially on “Ohio,” the sisters’ wistful homesick tribute to their home state and hometown of Columbus—after they moved to Greenwich Village, New York, in 1935.

Tour director/choreographer Jen Bender put lots of pizzazz in the show’s production numbers—which were fresh, new takes on the big numbers of this 1953 musical, whose 50th anniversary Broadway revival, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall took the Great White Way by storm. Bender also got crowd-pleasing performances from Kristin Stewart and Allison Berry, who made Ruth’s younger, much prettier, and much more agreeable sister Eileen both irresistible to men and truly an innocent; and music director/conductor David J. Hahn and his onstage orchestra performed the show’s score by composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green with brio.

Matthew Sean Callahan was in fine voice and comic form as boyishly handsome literary magazine editor Bob Baker, whose interest in Ruth was not entirely professional; Rockford Sansom was hoot as Ruth and Eileen’s amiable upstairs neighbor, former professional football player "Wreck" Loomis, who shared a flat with his live-in lover Helen; and Saum Eskandani was good the gregarious Mr. Appopolous, the sister’s Greenwich Village landlord and an aspiring landscape painter.

Megan Rozak was funny in a brief cameo as a notorious prostitute named Violet, who previously occupied the Sherwood sisters’ basement apartment, and fussy in a recurring bit as Helen's mother Mrs. Wade; Trey Mitchell was amusing as Frank Lippencott, the milquetoast manager of the local Walgreen's and one of Eileen’s numerous unsuccessful suitors; and Josh Gunn was suitably caddish as slimy newspaper reporter Chick Clark, who would lie, cheat, and steal to get Ruth out of the picture, so he could put the moves on Eileen. All of the principals and the supporting cast made the most of their moments in the spotlights, but Nov. 29th was understudy Kristin Stewart’s night to shine—and shine she did, like a Broadway star of the future.

Broadway at Duke: http://www.duke.edu/web/duu/broadway/index.html [inactive 9/07]. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=9461. Internet Movie Database (TV Movie): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0289629/.