July 18, 2008

Cartoon Comes Alive

By Bill Blankenship

By Bill Blankenship


The creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip is gone, but the characters Charles M. Schulz created still live in the minds and hearts of millions.

Starting this weekend, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and others from the "Peanuts" gallery will sing and dance on the Helen Hocker Stage in the musical, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."

The musical comedy with songs by Clark Gesner was the choice of the Bath House Players when the Helen Hocker Center for the Performing Arts' acting company of 14- to 18-year-olds lost the rights to stage a "Willy Wonka" musical.

Although Schulz died eight years ago, "Peanuts" was part of this high school-aged group's childhood.

"I grew up with the comic strip in the newspaper," said Charlie Stock, who plays Charlie Brown. "My Mom and I watched 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown,' or the 'Charlie Brown Christmas special.' "

The show's director Jo Huseman attributed the lasting legacy of "Peanuts" to the universal and identifiable qualities Schulz imbued in the characters.

"Everybody has a Charlie Brown day or a Lucy day," said Huseman, explaining there are days when everything goes wrong or you just feel crabby.

"You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" opened March 7, 1967, off- Broadway with Gary Burghoff (Radar in "M*A*S*H") and ran for 1,597 performances. It was twice staged on Broadway, in 1971 and 1999, and adapted for a 1973 "Hallmark Hall of Fame" special and a 1985 animated prime-time special.

The song-filled stage production includes several vignettes, such as Lucy (Evy Fisher) offering Charlie psychiatric advice for a nickel and Snoopy (Jenny Walker) taking on a WWI aviator persona in search of the Red Baron.

Lucy tries to woo the Beethoven-loving Schroeder (Chris Haynes) away from his piano into her arms, and Linus (William Kenefake) has to deal with separation anxiety from his beloved blanket.

Also in the show are Peppermint Patty (Maggie Thompson), Pig Pen (Eric Pasley) and Sally (Maggie Beasley).

Joining Huseman on the production team are Jason Bivens, technical director and shop foreman; Sally Glassman, choreographer; Sharon L. Sullivan, costumer; Brenda Blackman, assistant costumer; and stage managers Miki Bellerive and Samantha Conley, assisted by Josh Whisler.

Musical accompaniment is provided by Janice Supon, piano, and Bob Keckeisen, drums.

Bill Blankenship can be reached

at (785) 295-1284 or [email protected]

(c) 2008 Topeka Capital Journal. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.