Kick starting its 25th season, the Monroe County Civic Theater will be presenting Clark Gesner’s four-time Tony award-nominated, and two-time winning, revised musical production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
Headed by MCCT’s Producing Director Sheila Butler, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” will mark the theater company’s 120th production milestone, starring a cast composed of local area students.
“Most of my cast is from IU and the Ivy Tech colleges, and I have three from the public schools, two from the high schools and one eighth-grader,” Butler said. “One of the Sally’s and Snoopy are from South High School and the other Lucy is from Jackson Creek Middle.”
The off-Broadway hit premiered in 1967 and was revived on Broadway in 1999 to great critical acclaim, winning two Tony awards, for Best Featured Actress and Actor. The production also won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Musical.
“This was a show that I wanted to do for many years, so I decided that this was the year I wanted to try it,” Butler said.
The production is based on the iconic and much beloved Peanuts comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz. It first launched Oct. 2, 1950, and later found its way to television screens all across the United States in the form of Emmy Award-winning cartoon specials.
“I was asked if I would keep them traditional or if I was going to make it different. ... I’m keeping it traditional,” Butler said.
The MCCT production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” will feature original dance by choreographer Georgeanna Dent.
“I really go with the music when I’m choreographing. I really let the music be my guide,” Dent said. “My training is mostly classical ballet, so I think a lot of the choreography probably looks more like classical ballet as opposed to modern or jazz.”
The show has gained popularity among amateur theater companies due to its simplistic set design and small cast.
“It’s nice working with such a small cast,” Dent said. “They are more mature and more seasoned. Also, with a small cast I feel like you can show choreography and patterns better than having a cast of thousands on the stage and they just sort of sway back
The choreography may receive a more original treatment, but audiences can expect classic fare when it comes to the production’s music, which features several tunes heard on the television specials and will be played by music director Eric Anderson Jr.
“It’s a particular challenge because I really have to get it right,” Anderson said. “The tunes are so popular that people know exactly what they are expecting to hear, and they have a very clear idea of the music going in.”
Anderson said the talent and the casts’ vocal prowess live up to the task.
“They are very good... which isn’t any surprise,” Anderson said. “There is a great pool of talent at IU, and it’s nice to be able to draw from that.”
IU sophomore theater major Travis Lampke will be playing the part of Charlie Brown.
“There is a little bit of nerves. The name is in the title of the show, so people have an exact idea of what they are looking for and what they expect to see,” Lampke said.
“Many times you’ll hear, ‘Take the part, make it your own,’ but that’s not how this one works ... I’m staying true to the original character, which is the reason people are coming to see the show.”
“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” is directly based on several comic strips and parts of television specials.
“This isn’t groundbreaking or Pulitzer Prize-winning material — we are making a musical based on Charlie Brown,” Lampke said. “This is funny and fun. It’s designed to bring back memories of watching the old cartoon films and reading the strips. We are trying to take people to that place.”