Alumni Profile • Deborah Lew '00
Living a fairy tale

Deborah Lew"Impossible?! Things are happening ev'ry day," sings Cinderella's fairy godmother in the classic 1957 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.

Those words apply just as aptly to actress Deborah Lew '00 as they do to the character she played last summer. Reviewers called her performance as Cinderella at the North Shore Musical Theatre outside Boston, Mass., "fabulous," "radiant," "engaging" and "superb." The adjectives have been similarly superlative for her lead roles in other regional shows (West Side Story, Miss Saigon, Amour) and off-Broadway (Cupid and Psyche). On Broadway she performed last spring in Threepenny Opera and now appears in Beauty and the Beast.

All this, and more, after just four years in New York.

But it wasn't a fairy godmother who made the seemingly impossible happen for Lew.

"I put my head down and worked harder than I've ever worked," Lew said of her first year in the city. She arrived there in September 2002 after traveling for two years with a small, experimental theater group in England. "I bought trade magazines and asked friends in the business for advice and threw myself into classes," she said. "It was trial and error."

She remembers her first New York audition, an open-call audition for the musical Hairspray on Broadway. After waiting in line for six hours, Lew's turn with the casting director came. She sang 16 bars of a song she'd prepared, was thanked and dismissed. She laughs now, remembering: "I had no idea what I was doing, but I learned from that. Everything you learn from is good. You bring what you learned to the next audition. You just go and do it and keep doing it and then, eventually, you grow in confidence."

But as Lew talks it's clear that she credits something more than hard work for her transformation from Calvin College theater major to Broadway actress. Her descriptions of her experiences echo with the word "blessed":

"I've been blessed to work with people that I could learn so much from.

"I've been blessed to be able to make a living by acting.

"I'm blessed to have a church and community here I care about."

She's also clear that it's not a fairy godmother who's doing the blessing. Of the common perception that to be a steady, faithful Christian in the New York theater world is difficult, Lew said, "I don't think it's any more difficult than in any other profession where you're trying to excel."

The opportunities for trusting God to provide, though, are perhaps more numerous in Lew's profession.

"At the end of the day," she said, "after you finish a show, you're back out on the street, auditioning for work." She concedes that not knowing when or where her next acting job will come "can make me a little crazy at times." But, she quickly adds, "There's also something so wonderful about it. Suddenly, in a day, I'll find myself working on a new show or going to a new city ."

And what does she call that uncertainty? "A blessing."