By Kathryn Kelman/editor-in-chief
Musical cast puts own spin on established Peanuts characters
The iconic Peanuts crew will take audiences back to the playground March 2-3 for Theatre Northwest’s production of the Broadway classic You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
The musical comedy brings Charles Schulz’s classic comic strip to life as the whole gang continues with their typical trials and tribulations.
The show was chosen as the campus’ children’s show, said NW drama instructor Brent Alford, who’s directing the musical.
“We do a children’s show every spring and who doesn’t love Charlie Brown?” he said, adding that Peanuts transcends generations.
The cast will perform the show 10 times for local elementary school kids in addition to two other performances that will be open to the public, Alford said.
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is oriented for kids, said NW student Brian Johnson, but because the Peanuts characters have been around for so long, all generations can relate to them.
Johnson plays Charlie Brown and said he’s excited because he is so different from the title character.
“He’s not as full of energy, not as lively and he has a different outlook,” Johnson said. “It’s fun to play something so different.”
He doesn’t want audiences to see the musical as a bad rip-off of the movies or comics, so he’s focused on channeling Charlie Brown’s “essence” like his quirks and personality while still trying to make the character his own, he said.
NW instructional associate Brittani Evans, who plays Lucy, said being a part of the musical is a dream come true.
“Every time I dreamed about doing the show, she’s the character I really wanted,” she said. “She has the best songs in my opinion because they’re all very different from each other, and she’s an over-the-top person so all her songs are really over the top.”
Like Johnson, the cast has found it challenging to make such iconic characters their own because they want to be respectful of the original characters, Evans said.
Echoing Evans’ sentiment is NW student Michael Matthews, who plays Linus.
“There’s an expectation I already have to play up to because everyone knows these characters, even if people have never read through all the comic strips,” Matthews said. “Everyone has had some exposure to these characters. They know them, so trying to capture that without copying is just very difficult.”
Unlike Evans and Johnson, Matthews is playing it safe and not looking to change anything too much, he said.
To prepare, Matthews and his cast members have been watching a lot of Charlie Brown and rehearsing Monday through Friday and some Sundays since Jan. 22.
NW student Jessica Rodriguez said watching is for research, but it’s also about enjoying how her character, Sally, acts and transferring what she sees into her performance while still making Sally her own.
In this production, audiences will see a female version of Snoopy, played by NW student Jesse Martinez.
“I didn’t think I’d be playing Snoopy because he’s a boy,” she said. “I’m happy with it though because the most fun part about getting to play him is I think I get to be the silliest on stage.”
She’s never played an animal before but is enjoying getting to play and dance around on the doghouse and serve as the show’s comic relief, she said.
Snoopy is a very physical role, but Martinez is excited to interact a lot with the audience, even though by the end of the show she is reminded how much she needs to work on her cardio, she said.
“Our main focus is entertaining children, so we get to be huge and as stupid and silly and loud and floppy as we want to be,” she said.
Martinez said she hopes audiences have as much fun watching as the cast has had bringing the characters to life.
“I think for adults and children, it’s a fun way to reflect back on the old show,” she said. “I definitely think that the show has been a part of anybody’s childhood and for it to be put on a stage is amazing. I think adults and children will both love it.”