Play review: ‘Stuart Little’

By James F. Cotter

August 04, 2007


     Sussex, N.J. — “I’m Headed in the Right Direction” sings the
mouse Stuart Little at the climax of “Stuart Little,” a musical based on the children’s book by E.B. White.
The story has been artfully adapted for the stage by Joseph Robinette with music by Ronna Frank and lyrics
by Robinette and Frank. Indeed, Stuart is headed in the right direction after a happy home life in the Littles’
Manhattan apartment where he was born and brought up with sensitivity and affection by his human parents.
When he finally decides to go out into the world to make his own fortune and to find the bird that
has been the love of his life, we know that Stuart has chosen the right path for himself.

     Tri-State Actors Theatre is presenting a revival of “Stuart Little” with the Student Intern Company
directed by Paul Meacham. The 11 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 are terrific as they take on
myriad human and animal roles, led by the ever resourceful, mild-mannered supermouse Stuart. Emma
Della makes Stuart a true hero, confident yet modest, threatened but optimistic. With Stuart’s mouse
hat, the performer shivers and quakes, then races off to a fresh adventure, sailing boats, chased by
dogs, thrown onto an East River garbage barge, and, of course, negotiating with cats.

     As Stuart’s housemate, the cat Snowbell, Allison Ann Dethmers claws the air and agrees in a duet,
“Natural Enemies,” that pets need to be friends. One of the highlights of the show is a quartet sung by cats
about the joys of “Nighttime in New York.

     As Stuart’s Mom and Dad, Alexa Ross and Josh Ernst are caringly comic when they agree to avoid the
m-word whenever addressing their tiny son, while Jonathon Dragon hits the right notes as brother George
who treats Stuart as a younger sibling in need of guidance. Amanda Martino has a funny scene as a dentist,
Dr. Carey, who befriends Stuart while extracting a tooth from a frantic patient played by Dallas Haines.
As the bird Margalo, Raquel Warehime flutters her wings and looks beautiful as she joins in the title duet,
“Stuart Little,” while Amanda Autore as the ritzy Harriet Ames shares a frustrated date with the wandering hero.
Alexis Alemy is a helpful shopkeeper and Jackie Torres a desperate school superintendent whom Stuart
encounters in the search through the Big Apple for his true identity.

     Jim Blanton accompanies the cast at the keyboard while also acting as the accomplished musical
director. Choreographer Melissa Pisarri creates some marvelous dance sequences, and scenic artist Jackie
Perry uses alphabet blocks spelling out the hero’s name in an imaginative variety of ways. The pastel-colored
costumes, logolike skyline and lighting by Courtney O’Rourke all add up to making this show a delightful
experience for young and old alike.