News Column

Priceville High to stage 'Charlie Brown' musical

May 9, 2013

YellowBrix

May 09--"You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown"

Presented by: Priceville High School

The director: Laura Hensley

The script: Based on Charles Schulz's popular drawings of the "Peanuts" gang. Adapted for the stage by Clark Gesner, the musical debuted off-Broadway in 1967. A Broadway revival in 1999 earned the production two Tony Awards for Best Featured Actor and Actress and a nomination for Best Revival of a Musical.

"It's basically a compiled version of all the comic strips with all the classic moments," junior Brandon McLemore said. "There is the doctor's stand, the football kick, Schroeder's piano and the little red-headed girl. There really isn't a set plot, but it's a fun musical."

Rehearsals: Started in April, after the drama club staged "Sweeney Todd" at the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts.

A desire to return to the Princess Theatre stage spurred the drama department to take on a second spring musical.

"We want to build up a fund so we can put on more big productions," McLemore said. "We thought this would be a short, cute play we could turn around quickly. It has simple sets and costumes."

Feast, no famine: The club will stage the musical as a dinner theatre production. Set at Priceville High School, the dinner will include spaghetti, lasagna and dessert. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $8 for students and senior citizens.

"It's a steal. You get a full dinner and get to be entertained at the same time," McLemore said.

The main characters: Brandon McLemore as Charlie Brown, Mackenzie Runager as Lucy, Jake Hamilton as Schroeder, Marlee Johnson as Sally, Savannah Segars as Linus, Lauren Smith as Peppermint Patty, Kaitlyn Gladwell as Woodstock and Abby Franks as Snoopy.

Drawing Inspiration: For the past 60 years, stories of an all-around loveable loser, his energetic sister, gang of friends and pet beagle entertained generations of families. The comic strips captured shared childhood moments as Charlie Brown, Lucy and the rest of the "Peanuts" crew tackled life.

Tasked with bringing the beloved cartoon characters to life, the Priceville High teenagers did research.

"You know, there was a lot of reading of the comics and watching the cartoons," said Johnson, a senior.

"We didn't want to mess with the characters too much, but we've given them a little twist and made them our own," said McLemore, who, for those wondering, is not going bald to portray Charlie Brown. "I'm definitely keeping my hair. To be fair, in the Broadway production, Charlie Brown had hair."

Songs for the Strip: When Gesner took "Peanuts" from the pages of the newspaper to the Broadway stage, he brought the characters to life with costumes, sets, dancing and songs.

The 14-song musical includes "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," "Snoopy," "My Blanket and Me," "The Doctor is In," "My New Philosophy and "Little Known Facts."

"It's really fun how the music was included. 'Schroeder,' a song Lucy sings, is sung to Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata,' since Schroeder is always playing Beethoven," McLemore said.

Developing Drama: With "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," the drama club will finish its second year as a recognized department at Priceville High.

Urged by students, Hensley organized the club in the fall of 2011.

"For me, the drama group has helped me get to know more people, like Jake. He is on the baseball team and if he was not in the drama club, I probably would have never known him," McLemore said.

"This has helped me broaden my horizons. I've always been involved with sports and this has gotten me to have new experiences," Hamilton, a senior, said. "The other day, 'Phantom of the Opera' was on and I stopped to watch it. Before drama club, I would have never done that."

Shows: Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. at Priceville High School.

Cost: $15 for adults and $8 for students and senior citizens.

Catherine Godbey can be reached at 256-340-2441 or cgodbey@decaturdaily.com.

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