Show brings beloved 'Peanuts' characters to life
March 05, 2013 10:50 AM
by JEREMY HARTLEY

The “Peanuts” characters we all know and love come to life this week at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

IUP’s Lively Arts will present the Broadway musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” the musical comedy based on the long-running “Peanuts” comic strip, beginning Wednesday in IUP’s Theater by the Grove.

The show features six of the classic “Peanuts” characters — Charlie Brown, his sister Sally, Snoopy, siblings Linus and Lucy, and musician Schroeder — as they sing their way through several familiar scenarios from the famed comic strip.

“It’s a small chamber musical,” said Sarah Mantel, music director and music department faculty. “There are only six characters who sing, and it follows the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip, so you see various slices of life of all of our favorite characters.

“It’s sort of like that book ‘All I Know About Life I Learned In Kindergarten.’ Well, all I know about life I learned from the ‘Peanuts’ characters.”

The show is a joint production between IUP’s music theater department and the Theater by the Grove.

Auditions began in November, according to Mantel. Rehearsals began around Jan. 24, the week before classes began.

One of the biggest challenges in the show has been learning how to portray adults as children, according to Mantel and some of the cast.

“We’ve learned that they’ve trained you so well as you grow up to stop doing what little kids do,” said Chantel Cumberbatch, a sophomore music theater major who plays Lucy, “like fidgeting, calling out and things that little kids do.

“As you grow older, teachers train you to stop doing that. In this show, we realized we kind of have to start doing that again and be free.”

According to Mantel, special set pieces had to be built larger to scale in order for the adult actors to appear as small children.

Chris Furrer, a sophomore music theater major who plays Charlie Brown, said his biggest challenge was staying true to the character, but also keeping things fresh and maintaining a wit about the present.

Jeannie-Marie Brown, director and choreographer and theater and dance department faculty, said the cast did little things to update the show for current audiences.

“If you keep an eye out,” she said, “you’ll see something like two cast members talking with cans on a string next to one using a laptop.”

The cast and crew agreed that making the show was a good experience overall.

“This has been a wonderful experience for me and the stage management crew and the individuals that are involved in the production,” Brown said, “because we’ve had the luxury of a bit of time to really delve into it and look at ‘You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown’ from a diversionary perspective.”

Diversionary theater focuses on entertainment and having a good time, according to Brown.

“I’m so excited,” Cumberbatch said. “It’s going real good. The cast and our crew and everyone that’s helping out with it is amazing. It’s just going. It’s really fun.”

In the end, the cast and crew hope to make the audience recapture a bit of their own childhood.

“What we’re hoping is that we can be reminded of all the passion we had as children before we were socialized out of being angry, saying what we felt and thought,” Brown said.

“I hope they come and they see something that makes them feel a lot and helps bring back memories of things that happened in their childhood and their experiences with ‘Peanuts,’” Furrer said.

“It’s a really good family show and kids would love it,” Mantel said. “I would say it’s a little ray of light in our dark, dismal world.”

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” was written by composer Clark Gesner. The original production of the show began off-Broadway in 1967. It saw success on Broadway in 1971 and also saw a revival of a revised version of the show in 1999.

The show will play Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. with a final show Sunday at 2 p.m. on the Waller Hall Mainstage. Tickets are available at the Hadley Union Building box office, by calling (724) 357-1313 or online at iuptickets.com. Tickets are $15, $13 with a discount or $9 with an IUP I-card.

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