I grew up reading the “Peanuts” comic strips every Sunday. There isn’t a holiday season that I haven’t watched a Charlie Brown special. I hear the Vince Guaraldi Trio (or a woodwind ensemble) playing “Linus and Lucy” and my day is a little brighter. Charlie Brown is an icon.
If you have a curious mind — or have agreed to direct a musical involving the beloved “Peanuts” characters — you may find yourself Googling things like “character traits of Charlie Brown characters.” It is amazing how many articles, blogs, and personality quizzes have been written to explore this group of tiny cartoon children.
A common thread is the psychological traits and disorders of the individual characters. According to James C. Kaufman with Psychology Today, Charlie Brown suffers from neuroticism, Snoopy is an extravert, Lucy is disagreeable, Linus demonstrates an openness to experience, and Schroeder is conscientious. Many other ‘experts’ suggest Sally has a learning disability that has gone unidentified. A cute show with catchy music about a group of young kids just became a little more interesting!
Incorporating these varied and specific personality traits into a musical can seem daunting, but it’s a fundamental element in telling the stories to which we are accustomed. Charlie Brown needs to be awkward. Lucy must be abrasive… etc.
How does this — along with music rehearsal, set building, sound and lighting design — get accomplished?
In May 2017, the Academy’s fine and performing arts department’s music staff began planning the set, analyzing characterization, listening to the music, and laying out the rehearsal plan for this particular musical. By August, information about auditions was distributed to students in 6th through 12th grade. The first week of school also brought auditions and call-backs, with the first rehearsal taking place in early September. Cast members worked with Cambridge University actors to develop their characters through speech, body movement, and facial exercises.
Then, in mid-September, Lower School students were invited to audition to participate in the “Woodstock Chorus,” which would be featured alongside Snoopy and Woodstock. Tech rehearsals began Oct. 23, with previews on Nov. 1 and 2. Last week saw dress rehearsals, and this week — performance week — we are finally here! Excuse me while I try to breathe for a minute.
Putting together a musical is an exhausting process, but so rewarding. The production staff has really enjoyed pulling favorite parts of the Charlie Brown world off the page and onto our stage. Taking an audience into a new world with vivid characters and an engaging story is a great honor and responsibility. We are eager to share that experience with the Academy community!
Learn more about Harrisburg Academy on our school website.
“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” originally opened on March 7, 1967. This version was revived on Broadway in 1971. A new, revised version was presented on Broadway in 1999 with award-winning performances by Roger Bart and Kristin Chenoweth as Snoopy and Sally, respectively.
Harrisburg Academy’s production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” will run Thursday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. Reserved seats are currently available for purchase at harrisburgacademy.org/tickets, and all remaining tickets will be on sale at the door one hour prior to each performance.