Mount Airy High to produce ‘Charlie Brown’

David Broyles

April 1, 2014

The Mount Airy High School Theatre Department is offering audiences a chance to feel the fun in seeing Lucy pull a football away from “the big headed kid” as he attempts to kick it with the musical, “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown.”

The production is based on the comic strip “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schultz with the book, music, and lyrics by Clark Gesner. It is slated to play on April 4 at 7 p.m. and April 5 at 2 p.m. in the MAHS Auditorium. General admission is $10 per person.

“Every play or musical I direct has its challenges,” said Choral and Theatre Director Gena Ray. “The challenge with ‘You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown’ is making cartoon characters real without losing the characteristics of a cartoon. We started by identifying each character’s trademark sayings, motions, and poses. We also worked on timing and exaggerated motions.”

Blake Hensley, who plays Charlie Brown, said he began to get a feel for Charles Shultz’s character after he and his fellow teen cast mates connected with the little child inside them and realized everyone relates to how Charlie rises from his seemingly endless initial downfalls.

“I think this play could be titled you’re a good man with any of the other character names,” said Hensley. “Everybody experiences the struggles of Charlie Brown. ” He and his cast mates agreed Shultz mixed elements of children with old characters, each with their own strengths, weaknesses and insights.

The cast members described how their parents or grandparents introduced them to the “Peanuts” comic strip’s characters so they already had a personal connection to the work. Sara Pequeno, who plays Lucy, has found a certain amount of fun in the character.

“It’s a lot of fun to be so angry and scream so much on stage and boss people around,” said Pequeno. She said Lucy, for all her bluster, also has a softer side. Pequeno said she found she really enjoys the scenes where the fiery tempered character reveals she is a sweet person.

The character of “Sally” is being played by Anna Hiatt, who said bringing the character to the stage hasn’t been difficult in spite of the fact she doesn’t consider herself an angry person.

“She’s obviously the youngest character and she has an angry side,” said Hiatt. “I’m trying (as Sally) to be cute but at the same time she can get in people’s faces. Sometimes there are moments where I am so sweet and then switch it off. It’s been a fun role.”

Omar Calvillo, who plays Linus, described his character as a kid who doesn’t act like a kid. The task of bringing the philosophical character to life was all about finding out there’s much more to him than his beloved blanket. Everyone agreed today’s society makes everyone feel inadequate. Linus, to use a modern term, is seeking his “comfort zone.”

“Linus is very philosophical. His blanket is really his best friend,” said Calvillo. “When I was a child I had a blanket for a short while. I found out it’s harder to act like a child now. In a way, he (Linus) gets picked on a lot by Lucy but he can use his words to get to her softer side.”

Sam “John-Henry” Brown said he found out there was a lot going on under the surface of his character, Schroeder, with a certain level of difficulty to translate all the nuances of the iconic piano player to a three-dimensional stage.

“He’s so cut and dried but bringing an animated aspect to him made it tough,” said Brown. “I just didn’t act like myself and used a lot of over the top movements. There’s been another challenge for us. The (singing) parts were written for higher voices. All of us except for Anna have had to adjust for that.”

The task of playing Charlie Brown’s famous dog, Snoopy, falls to Jack Marion, who admitted it can be easy to “over think” the character.

“Snoopy has two things he really cares about,” said Marion. “He likes sleeping and supper time. The biggest thing for me was getting down the little things he does, like how he lays on the top of his dog house. Snoopy is really the one not a kid in this. He is the only adult on the stage and acts like a child.”

Director Gena Ray said the cast “doesn’t know how really talented they are.” She said they are all honor students, many are also on sports teams and have jobs so they have had to balance the demands of practices with all of their other commitments.

“I have waited to do this musical for a long time,” said Ray. “It’s taken me 30 years to find this cast and they do such a good job with this. Persons may obtain additional information by contacting Ray at 336-789-5147, Ext 2234 or on Twitter at genaray61.

David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAirynewsDave.