Southern Utah University’s Department of Theatre, Dance, and Arts Administration has opened the musical “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.” The show is adapted from Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comics by Clark Gessner with additional dialogue by Michael Mayer and additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. This production is directed by theatre professor Scott C. Knowles.
“Charlie Brown” follows a similar format to the comics, with many scenes housing self-contained scenarios and the entire show lacking a traditional beginning, middle and end formula. Instead, each scene contributes to the overall theme of the show.
“For me, it’s actually a thematic series of vignettes that builds on a topic,” said Knowles, “and that topic is happiness, which is [also the name of] the penultimate song.”
Due to the nature of the show, the rehearsal process was more upbeat, with the actors playing games their child-aged characters would enjoy. The cast has spent parts of the rehearsal process learning how to get into the headspace of their characters.
“It’s really beautiful to see the world realistically through the eyes of a child,” said Spencer Watson, who plays Charlie Brown. “And yes, we’re playing caricatures, but all of the Charlie Brown characters see the world so realistically, in a still very innocent way.”
For Knowles, “Charlie Brown” has been a new experience, as he has never directed a musical before.
“I’m much more of the nitty gritty avant garde theatre guy,” said Knowles. “But I fell in love with ‘Peanuts’ again and the cleverness of it, how much it’s the same joke for 50 years but with tweaks and adjustments that add depth and nuance to these characters and who they are and what they become.”
Another feature of SUU’s production of “Charlie Brown” is a Q&A entitled “Ask Lucy” will be held after the Friday, Dec. 9, performance.
“I really love the song ‘The Doctor Is In,’ and in that song, Lucy is giving Charlie Brown some great psychiatric advice,” said Olivia Jacobs, who created and is running “Ask Lucy.” “I was wondering, ‘what would Lucy say if I asked her for advice?’”
People can submit questions for Lucy to answer until curtain call of the Dec. 8 performance. Unlike the show, in which there’s a script and directions to follow, Lucy actor Ashley Aquino and the rest of the cast will have to improvise their answers to audience questions.
“[The questions] get screened before they come to me, but it’s mostly improv for me and my cast,” said Aquino. “It’s gonna be hard, though, because I have to get into the headspace of an 8-year-old to answer these questions.”
“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” is running Dec. 2, 3, 5, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. with matinee performances Dec. 3 and 10 at 2:00 p.m. Admission is free to SUU students.
Article by: Tessa Cheshire
Photos courtesy of Zina Johnstun