A new production from First City Players is set to debut next week, bringing an upbeat, musical take on classic comic book characters to the stage.
In an interview with the Daily News on Thursday, FCP executive director Elizabeth Nelson said “You’re a good man, Charlie Brown” was exactly the show she’s been looking for this summer.
“I was looking for something that met our criteria,” Nelson explained. “One, he had to have a little casting. Second, I wanted something that was absolutely, completely, and totally family-friendly. I wanted something that would lift my spirits, and this particular show ticked all the boxes. “
The show also doesn’t require a lot of sets or costume changes for the six members and the small backstage crew.
The cast brings six of the Peanuts characters to life that first came to life via comics by illustrator Charles Schulz. Cast include James North as lead character Charlie Brown, Dani Steepe as Lucy van Pelt, Peter Epler as Linus van Pelt, Amanda Glanzer as Sally Brown, Niles Corporon as Schroder, and Dani Pratt as Snoopy. The show also includes a small cameo appearance by Epler’s daughter, Addy.
Bridget Mattson and Clare Bennett directed the choreography for the show, while Deidra Nuss was the musical director.
Nelson said that at the time of the hearings earlier this year, local uncertainty over the coronavirus potentially prompted some FCP regulars to flee the scene.
However, “We had enough people, we had more than enough people,” Nelson said of attending the auditions, which allowed the cast to be completed with returning artists and new faces. “… And I ended up with a cast that I’m really, really happy with.”
And this cast has worked to bring classic Charlie Brown moments to life on stage during rehearsals for the past three months.
“Where most of the shows have a full story – there’s a plot – this show is really more like the comics themselves,” Nelson said. “Where we’ll have a little short story – it sure tells a story – but it’s over when it’s done.” Many of them are told in musical numbers. It’s really light, so for me it’s perfect for where our world has been recently.
The actors – who were all fully vaccinated against the coronavirus when rehearsals began – have always proceeded with caution amid rapidly changing local guidelines.
“We have of course been through all the ups and downs of the last two weeks,” said Nelson. “It’s like everything else over the past year. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
But Nelson hopes that “You are a good man, Charlie Brown” can provide positive reviews from local families.
“It’s just something that you can do with your whole family and come back loving everything, everything about the world,” she said.
For actor Dani Steepe, the playful production is his first FCP credit.
“It’s so cute, it’s so funny,” she described the show. “It’s really precious. It’s just a day in the life of Charlie Brown.
Steepe plays Lucy van Pelt, and although she’s never been to an FCP show, she’s not new to the world of theater.
“It’s something I used to do when I was younger,” Steepe told the Daily News Thursday afternoon. “I did musicals from grades four to eight, and then I chose to take track and field instead of musical theater. And I played softball in college, actually, but now my competitive sports life is over and I’m going back to musical theater.
Steepe said her role as Lucy is a fun exercise in playing a character with a personality opposite to her own.
“I’m not a bossy, arrogant person and it’s been a lot of fun playing this character who just thinks she’s always right,” Steepe said. “She’s leading everyone around.”
She said preparing for her first production in years illustrated the differences from the performances she has done in the past.
“At this (college) age the directors are somehow hoping that you can memorize your lines and learn the songs, and that’s all expectations go,” she explained. “But Elizabeth (Nelson) and Deidra (Nuss, musical director) really worked with me on body language and facial expressions and different ways of singing that really bring a character to life. So it’s not just about reading lines and singing songs, I’m actually becoming that character of Lucy, and it’s been a fascinating process for me, something that I never had the chance to do. ‘learn before.
With opening night a week away, Steepe is looking forward to her FCP debut, even though she doesn’t have the jitters, she explained.
“I’m definitely nervous, just because I haven’t done it for so long,” Steepe commented. “Just because I haven’t done it for so long. I tend to do better, at least in my sporting history, I tend to show myself and do better in games than in training, so hopefully that translates into the show as well.
Like Steepe, Niles Corporon, who plays Schroder on the show, also connects with his character, though he has a lot more in common with his role than Steepe.
“One of the things I love about his character is something that I can relate to,” he said. “He’s very passionate, he knows the things he loves, he knows the things he loves to do, and he’s passionate about classical music and the piano and his favorite composers, especially Ludwig van Beethoven. And despite the fact that none of his friends seem to actually share this passion, he is happy to try to encourage them to share it with them. And they understand it and accept it for the fact that it’s basically all of her life and all of her character, perfecting her craft.
Corporon last performed with FCP in a 2016 production of “The Little Mermaid”, in which he played King Triton. He first performed with FCP at the age of 13, as an ensemble member in “Oliver Twist”.
The corporon was unfamiliar with the musical version of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” when he decided to audition.
“It’s a show that I had never heard of before, and I knew it would be a small cast, so I thought it would be a good way to go back in time without jumping straight into a big musical. ‘fall or something, “Corpoon said of her choice to audition for the show.
He did not intend to represent Schroder at his first audition.
“When I went to the audition… I went into it thinking I wanted to be Linus,” he said. “But at the start of the audition process, I was like, ‘I don’t think I have the right temperament to play Linus. “”
He thinks the message of “You are a good man, Charlie Brown” runs deeper than the comics.
“This little group of Charlie Brown and his friends, they’re like this little microcosm of a community,” Corporon said. “… I think about the way they come together, and they appreciate and support and accept each other, even though they’re all such different characters with such great emotions and egos and they have all these differences and preferences. and opinions and likes and dislikes, but at the end of the day they are all able to support each other and come together.
Corporon said the show’s overall message is resilience.
“I would say, especially for the character of Charlie Brown,” he noted. “It’s just his resilience as a person to be able to deal with whatever comes his way. … I feel like this is a message the city really needs right now, it’s just to hang on, keep hoping, be resilient, keep taking risks, keep pushing themselves and dealing with it even if things don’t work out, maybe next time around they will.
“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” opens at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays, with subsequent performances at 7:30 p.m. on June 12, 2:30 p.m. on June 13, 7:30 p.m. on June 18 and 2. 30h June 19.
Tickets must be purchased before the show from the FCP.