GVSU Opera Theatre follows two sisters chasing their dreams in "Wonderful Town"

Promotional flier for Wonderful Town
Elise Alvaro (left) plays Eileen and Mikayla Berghorst (right) portrays Ruth in "Wonderful Town."
Image Credit: courtesy of Dale Schriemer

Sisters Ruth and Eileen Sherwood leave behind their ordinary lives in a rural Ohio town in pursuit of fulfilling their dreams in New York City.

Filled with swinging show tunes, Grand Valley State University students will showcase how “Wonderful Town” captures the thrill of two sisters trying to change their lives.

GVSU Opera Theatre will present “Wonderful Town” February 8, 9, 15, and 16, at 7:30 p.m. and February 10 and 17 at 2 p.m. All shows will take place in Louis Armstrong Theatre, located in the Thomas J. and Marcia J. Haas Center for Performing Arts on the Allendale Campus.

Ruth is an aspiring writer played by Mikayla Berghorst, a junior majoring in vocal performance. Berghorst said her favorite part of adopting the character of Ruth has been portraying a different kind of personality than she is used to on stage.

“My favorite part about playing Ruth is being able to portray an older, strong-minded, sarcastic character because I have often played younger, weaker characters,” said Berghorst. “The most challenging part has been stepping out of my comfort zone on stage. Ruth is a wacky character, and I often find myself mentally and emotionally exhausted after rehearsals.”

Elise Endres, a freshman majoring in music, will portray Eileen in “Wonderful Town” — a dancer who wants to pursue a life on stage. Endres said her approach to the character is one of balance.

“Eileen is a very sweet people-person, but also a bit of a ditsy flirt and that element of this character has been fun to bring to the table and stage,” said Endres. “Having said that, the most challenging part of this character is really making her ditsy nature come to life while not making it too unbelievable!”

Dale Schriemer, GVSU Opera Theatre artistic director said “Wonderful Town” was an easy choice to bring to the Grand Valley stage.

“It’s such a fun show and written by the genius team of Leonard Bernstein (music) and Comden and Green (book and lyrics),” he said. “It’s a delightful comedy with sing-along music, comic situations that are inventive and clever, and the whole cast gets to do a lot of different things.”

“Wonderful Town” will be directed by alumnus, Christopher Carter.

"I love coming back to direct at Grand Valley because it's like returning home and it always encourages me to showcase leadership by being a good role model," said Carter, 09. "As an alumnus, it makes me feel good to teach these students what I’ve learned since graduating. Choosing the career path of artistry is not easy, but knowing that your dreams can be a reality gives you so much hope when you're an inspiring young artist." 

"Wonderful Town" marks Carter's fourth time directing a musical at Grand Valley, and he said one of his favorite aspects of directing "Wonderful Town" has been watching the students grow as actors.

"The speed of a show like this can be intimidating for young artists, but what I love about this cast is they take everything I throw at them and run with it without hesitation," said Carter. "I think this musical is beneficial to the students because it gives them a chance to focus on comedy — a genre of theater that brings both the audience and cast joy, happiness and laughter through storytelling. It's not often you get to explore much comedy in college theater."

Tickets for “Wonderful Town” are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and Grand Valley faculty and staff, $7 for students, and $10 for groups of 10 or more. They are available at the Louis Theatre Armstrong Box Office, located in the Haas Center, or via startickets.com. For more information, contact the Louis Armstrong Theatre Box Office at (616) 331-2300 or visit gvsu.edu/theater.