- Associated Press - Sunday, February 7, 2016

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia native Kirsten Wyatt has come a long way since her Broadway debut, when she understudied Kristen Chenoweth in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

It was in 1999, and she found out just 30 minutes before show time that she was going on.

While her excitement was rising, the audience’s was not.

As is the norm, an announcement of any understudies taking parts is made before the curtain goes up.

The announcement that Chenoweth was to be replaced with an understudy was met with groans, she recalls.

“But, I think I won them over by the end,” she’s happy to report.

That was 17 years and eight more Broadway shows ago.

“I feel fortunate to work and sing and dance and do what I love to do. It’s hard work, but I feel fortunate.”

She also feels fortunate to be performing in her all-time favorite musical, “Guys and Dolls.”

And even more fortunate to be playing it close to her native Clarksburg.

Wyatt is playing the role of Miss Adelaide on the Pittsburgh Public Theater stage, which opened Jan. 29 and continues through Feb. 28.

“It’s the perfect musical,” she said. “What I love about Adelaide is that she’s madly in love with this man (Nathan) she’s been engaged to for 14 years. She has the right amount of sexy, and she’s funny. She has a big heart, she’s kind, and she’s also full of surprises. That’s why she and Nathan are together - they surprise each other. Their love is so pure - that’s what I love about Adelaide.”

This is her second go around with Adelaide. She first played the role at the Great Lakes Theater in Cleveland a few years ago.

The music in “Guys and Dolls” is “undeniable,” Wyatt said. “There is so much in the show (the audience) will know - great American musical theater classics that were the pop hits of the 1950s, when the show was originally on Broadway,

“The show has a big heart. It’s about New York City and gamblers - two different sides - the mission and crap shooters and how they come together. It’s fun and funny, and a heartwarming show. It’s a great American classic. Everyone should see this show!”

Wyatt was born in Welch, W.Va., and moved to Clarksburg when she was 6. As a child, she loved to sing and dance around the house, and “did a bunch of shows.”

Her high school, Washington-Irving, “had a wonderful theater department,” she said, where she performed in the school musicals every year.

She also performed in several shows at the W.Va. Public Theater in Morgantown. In fact, in the summer prior to entering the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, she was a solid member of the company at the public theater, performing as Chava in “Fiddler on the Roof,” as Wendy in “Peter Pan” and in the ensemble of “Camelot.”

“That was a very special summer for me,” she said.

After graduating from the conservatory in 1997, it was off to New York City.

“I moved straight to New York, trying to make my way in the big city.”

Her college, she said, offered the opportunity to do a showcase for casting directors and agents. She landed an agent and shortly after landed her first show, “High Society” at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

And just two years later, she was on Broadway, understudying the roles of Sally Brown and Lucy van Pelt in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

“It was very much an honor to be (Kristen Chenoweth’s) understudy. I found out a half hour before I was going on. She fell. She was getting a lot of exposure, not the giant star she is now.”

And, no chance her appearance will be met with groans in Pittsburgh. Her parents, Phil and Renee Wyatt, will be in the audience for at least three of the performances, she said, and perhaps others from her hometown, as well.

For tickets, call 412-316-1600. The Pittsburgh Public Theater is located at the O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh.

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Information from: The Intelligencer, https://www.theintelligencer.net

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