Even if you know every frame of the “Peanuts” comic strips by heart, there’s a big reason you should see “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” Helen O’Connell says.
“The music for this show is fantastic! The tunes are catchy and exciting to direct and choreograph,” said O’Connell, the drama teacher at BASIS Ahwatukee, where students in the school’s musical theater class have been rehearsing for five months.
Now, they’re ready to present the 1967 musical comedy at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 13 and 14 and the same time April 20 and 21 at the school, 10210 S. 50th Place, Ahwatukee. Admission is $7 at the door.
“This show also presents a new learning experience for the students, as the plot is not linear like most shows,” O’Connell said. “The scenes are constructed like comic strips, and the audience experiences small vignettes in the lives of the Peanuts characters.”
Though students have devoted five 50-minute classes a week to the show since November, they’ve been putting in extra time after school and on the weekends.
“The challenge for the actors is portraying these classic Peanuts characters, while still adding their own interpretation,” O’Connell said. “When a character has been around for almost 70 years, audiences have a certain expectation, but as an actor, you also want to create something unique and fresh.”
As they prepare for their first performance, the students have hit their stride, O’Connell thinks.
“Our students have been doing an excellent job of balancing these expectations with their performance,” she said. “Our technical theater students have had fun learning how to create a more cartoonish set, as compared to the more realistic sets we have done in the past.”
Indeed, she added, building the set “has been one of the exciting aspects of this show.”
“We have Snoopy’s doghouse, Lucy’s psychiatric stand where she charges Charlie Brown 5 cents for some advice, and we have some beautiful backdrops designed by one of our art teachers, Amy Jensen,” O’Connell said.
Given the age of “Peanuts,” the student-thespians nonetheless found the Charles Shulz classic relevant to their lives, O’Connell said, explaining:
“The beauty of the cartoons is that the bigger issues the characters deal with are still applicable to today’s students – ideas like wanting to fit in, wondering if that cute girl or guy likes you, hoping to win the baseball game. These are all still desires that students today feel on a regular basis.”
The cast features Aleksandar Jovanovic playing Charlie Brown, Kevin Kansas playing Linus, Susannah Nania as Sally, Alayna Ziglin as Lucy and Darrell Mason as Schroeder.
The ensemble cast features Rhyann Krueger, Joyce Lee, Kate Christian, Benjamin Stokman, Abigail Swalander, Tyler Hannart, Brooke Bealer and Sophia Pywowarczuk.
O’Connell runs the Off-Stage Drama Club that meets on Fridays and the weekends and whose 16 members “worked together to construct these sets from scratch, as well as painting the backdrops,” she said.
Along with O’Connell as director teachers Melissa Hawks and Kelsey Hillman worked as music and technical directors, respectively.
Other members of the crew include stage manager Kalena Leahy, assistant stage manager Sarah Ballachanda, choreographer Abigail Swalander, sound technicians Carter Nothaft and Patrick Jiang, lighting designers Tahseen Arefeen, Kit Donnelly and Maya Haddad; properties masters Raima Aiyer and Fatma Omar, costume designer: Emmen Haq and head carpenter Meredith Pressman.
The Off Stage Drama Club members who worked on the set are Alexis Flowers, Rachel Greenman, Spencer Hachtel, Elizabeth He, Mia Jung, Kevin Kansas, Kalena Leahy, Evan Morris, Sophia Northup, Elizabeth Nou, Nicholas Pugliese, Zubin Sidhwa, Ilona Szelinger, Subhan Vasanth and Eric Zhao.