'You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown"
Given New Richmond's proximity to the Twin Cities, it was just a matter of time before the high school found a way to bring Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts to the stage.
"I was really excited when I heard we were doing the Peanuts for our musical, with the Twin Cities being so close and the ties we have to the source material," high school English teacher and theater director Ashley Steiner said. "It is just a really good musical. The small cast makes it easy to work with the kids and really connect and develop the musical with them."
The New Richmond High School drama department, along with a live orchestra, will perform the Peanuts musical "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown" at 7 p.m. Nov. 3 and Nov. 4, and at 2 p.m. Nov. 5.
"The musical centers on Charlie Brown, who is about 6- or 7-years-old, so it is through the eyes of him. It isn't just a day in the life of him, but it is about how he perceives the world around him," Steiner said. "He is disappointed and then he is happy about something and all the different personalities play into that."
The musical includes a small cast of six lead characters along with a five ensemble members. Auditions for the musical took place the week after school started, giving the cast and crew eight weeks before opening night. According to Steiner, the cast went off book for the first time on Thursday, Oct. 19, and were planning on working with the pit orchestra and running the whole show starting Tuesday, Oct. 24.
"Having only six main people who talk through the entire play is a lot different than what I'm used to, since most of our other plays and musicals have had much larger main casts," said junior David Postma, who is playing Charlie Brown. "But at the same time, it has been nice because then you get to be close to the entire cast. When you are close with fellow actors it tends to make the play more interesting, because you can really play off of each other and have fun with it."
Although most of the cast wasn't super familiar with the Peanuts, they all knew of the comic and the holiday movies, which they saw when they were younger.
"I've seen the Christmas special and the other movies before, but I didn't know much more about them than that. I really like what I've seen of the musical so far," said senior and stage manager Emily Noye. "The set isn't too extensive. We have the dog house and the 'Doctor's In' booth for a few scenes. Other than that we will work with the lights, which shouldn't be too bad to work with."
One of the hardest parts for most of the cast, according to Steiner, was remembering that their characters are around 7-years-old.
"We had to really work with the kids on that, because they have to remember that they are 7-years-old, so they have to work with what they are given," Steiner said. "It was a bit of a challenge for them. The music has also been a little bit of a challenge for the kids, but only because they have had overlapping or music playing underneath the dialogue, which is a little tricky for them. But they are doing really well."
Another key aspect of playing the Peanuts characters is their over the top personalities and the fact that they are all very different people with different hopes and dreams.
"She has a big personality. And she has a lot of changes in scene as far as how she is acting. I have to flip back and forth. But that is part of life as a 7-year-old. You don't have life figured out yet," said junior Kadie Steiner, who is playing Lucy. "To be honest, I really like the parts where she gets angry at her friends. Those are fun scenes to do."
Given the source material, it isn't surprising that the cast and crew have been having fun working on this year's musical.
"It has been fun to play Charlie Brown, and I've had my share of 'Charlie Brown' moments where the cast and crew will yell out 'Oh, come on Charlie Brown,'" Postma said. "And this is actually my first time as a lead, so it is a completely different experience. It is scary, but fun.
"This play really shows how Charlie Brown isn't perfect. He is just a 7-year-old. He's going to have some interesting things happening to him during the day. And it is going to be a lot of fun."