Charlie Brown has yet to go out of style. The Peanuts gang still hangs out on occasion, and now it’s ready to take the stage. You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown opens at Cottage Theatre Feb. 3.
Mark VanBeever, the director and music director, envisions the show to be “light hearted, bright and colorful, beautiful sounding and a sheer joy to watch,” he says in an email. This show will be a drastic change from the last few productions that he directed, which included dark themes and large casts.
The play presents a snippet of Charlie Brown’s (Blake Nelson) life accompanied by his endearing friends, including Lucy (Amber Hagen), Snoopy (Laurel Merz), Linus (Julia Shepherd), Sally (Sophia James) and Schroeder (Ava Coleman). VanBeever describes the cast as friendly and talented.
In the show, Lucy offers advice for a nickel, and Shroeder won’t give any of his time to Lucy. Sally constantly teases Linus. The main man, Charlie Brown, has the support of his friends who tell him, “You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.” Oh, and we can’t forget Snoopy, the white, spotted beagle with amazing flying abilities.
VanBeever chose a play with a smaller cast and received permission from the rights company to add an ensemble, which in this production includes the understudies for each character. This is not the first time VanBeever has received such permission. His recent production of Black Magic also added an ensemble.
With this addition, the understudies will act in some of the performances. For the Thursday, Feb. 16, performance, two American Sign Language interpreters will be included. “We want to be as inclusive as possible for our hearing impaired community members,” VanBeever says.
The musical is based on the famous Peanuts comic strip created by Charles M. Schulz in 1950. The first production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown premiered in 1967. The book, music and lyrics for this production and for Animal Faire are created by Clark Gesner who also wrote Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street and That Was The Week That Was for television.
VanBeever will play piano, while also conducting the pit orchestra.
Getting the show on stage had some ups and downs. VanBeever caught the COVID-19 virus and was out for eight days. As a result, he had to direct via Zoom, but multiple cameras were set up so that the orchestra, stage manager and cast could see him. And with Cottage Theatre currently in need of a technical director, VanBeever describes the set build as “rough.” But volunteers, the president of the Board of Directors, their retired set builder and community members helped create the set.
The show, of course, will include Snoopy’s iconic doghouse, and Lucy’s home to set the stage thanks to the set designer, Rachel Froom. VanBeever says that there will be a few surprises. “You’ll have to come see to find out.”
“This is probably the last show I’ll be directing for quite a while,” VanBeever says. “It’s been years since I’ve been an actor onstage, and I miss it dearly.”
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown runs Feb 3 through Feb. 19 at Cottage Theatre in Cottage Grove. Tickets and more info at CottageTheatre.org.