The HHS Harlequins will present their 2015-16 spring musical, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” at Highland High School on Friday and Saturday, February 26 and 27 at 7 p.m.
The school’s choir director Lynda Keech, producing her eighth full-stage production as musical director of the HHS Harlequins, says she chose the show for this year because it’s the 50th anniversary of the musical. It’s also a less complicated show to stage than last year’s “Mary Poppins,” which is helpful given that the timing of spring break meant that this show had less time to rehearse even with a December start. Highland High School’s band director Drew Rebecchi joins Keech as pit band director for the production.
The storyline involves an average day in the life of Charlie Brown; a series of vignettes following the hapless hero as he begins the morning hopeful that this will be the day he works up the nerve to talk to “the little redheaded girl” he has a crush on. As the day goes on, Charlie Brown suffers a typical day of mishaps involving crashed kites and lack of valentines, sending him to seek help from the materialistic Lucy and her nickel-psychiatric booth. Lucy has her own problems, finding it pointless to discuss marriage with musician Schroeder and deciding to have her own “Queendom,” and Linus does a dance with his blanket, daring himself to give it up but ultimately caving. Charlie Brown carries on through it all, despite his worries that even his beloved dog Snoopy doesn’t love him, and by starlit evening, his optimistic mood returns when he learns that maybe he has more friends than he thought he did.
The cast is doubled in some cases, with Joshua Sutton playing Charlie Brown in Act I and Emma Gorden taking on the role in Act II. Summer Bugbee, last year’s Mary Poppins, wears a head-to-toe dog suit this year and wields a variety of props to portray the imaginative fantasy life of a tap-dancing Snoopy. Her brother, Devan Bugbee, plays Linus, with David Pagano taking on Schroeder, Lynzie Hegeman and Emily Cashman sharing the role of Lucy, (with Lucy at the end of Act II played by Alexis Shields) and Hailey Gallinari portraying Patty. The ensemble is rounded out with Jenna Mazzetti and Emily Porter, who also serve as assistant stage managers along with Penny Dilorio. Stage manager Elizabeth Ramsay also worked on costumes and props and artwork and sets were done by Rayna Teck and Celina McAleer.
The graphic created for the show by Highland High School senior McAleer shows Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the gang in silhouette, demonstrating the iconic identity of the “Peanuts” characters created more than half a century ago by Charles M. Schulz. Merely the outlines of their forms are all we need to recognize the lovable awkward boy, his daydreaming dog and the assortment of children in his orbit.
Parent and staff volunteers are also involved in the production, with community member Paul Krystek once again providing handmade props, including a suitably cartoon-like Schroeder’s piano with a top that can be propped open. Snoopy’s doghouse is on loan from the props barn for the 90 Miles Off Broadway theater company, who produced “Charlie Brown” several years ago. Keech’s staging of the show, which utilizes every corner of the auditorium, moves the action on and off stage with variety while giving the audience plenty to experience as the action unfolds around them on the side and center aisles as well as onstage.
“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” is licensed through special arrangement with Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc. The book, music and lyrics are by Clark Gesner based on Schultz’s characters. Performances are Friday and Saturday, February 26 and 27 at 7 p.m. (The snow date is Sunday, February 28 at 7 p.m. Check the school’s website at www.highland-k12.org or their Facebook page for any last minute updates.) Tickets cost $12 for adults or $10 for students and seniors. Kids under age five are admitted free. Tickets are available at the door prior to each performance. Highland High School is located at 320 Pancake Hollow Rd. in Highland.