It Was A Good Show, Charlie Brown
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A cast of 13 WHS students performed “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” on April 5-7 at Babcock Hall Auditorium. No one snatched the football from Charlie Brown this time; the play was a success, featuring laugh-out-loud lines, tap-dancing, and professional music.
Ms. Alana Rader and Mr. Jon L Peacock, professional actors who also teach theater class at WHS, co-directed the play. The production was presented by The Colonial Theatre of Rhode Island in conjunction with Westerly High School’s “Stagedogs” drama club.
Rader said, “This program wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of the Rhode Island Foundation and The Colonial Theatre.”
The musical is based on Charles M. Schulz’ comic strip and features discrete scenes. It follows a typical day in the life of the “Peanuts” characters, with Charlie Brown’s anxieties and tribulations weaving a central theme throughout. The version performed at WHS included three students in the role of Charlie Brown: freshman Alex Celico, senior Rosemarie Mirabella, and freshman Margaret Tetlow.
According to Rader, having three actors portray Charlie Brown provided an opportunity to feature more students in the production. She added, “We liked the idea of exploring the character of Charlie as an Everyman. We all have days in which we feel like a blockhead, and we thought it would be interesting for people to see themselves in Charlie. It was great to see what each actor brought to the character.”
Celico, one of the Charlie Browns, felt personally connected to the character. “I’ve always been drawn to the Peanuts characters, so getting the chance to be in such a fun show under Jon and Alana’s direction was a great experience,” he said.
Peacock and Rader selected this show for several reasons. “We thought Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang was a well-recognized story, and we liked the idea of drawing in a younger audience,” said Rader. Their first musical at WHS, the directors also wanted to “lean into the theme the show embodies: lifting others up through positivity,” Rader said.
The play featured five main characters in addition to Charlie Brown. Lucy was played by senior Allison Ornberg, Sally, by freshman Aislinn Gibson, Snoopy, by sophomore Hope Urbonas, Schroeder, by senior Marissa Sherry, and Linus by freshman Owen Muller.
Sophomore Jessica Tetlow played both Pig-Pen and a featured dancer, while senior Lisa Yuen played the dual roles of the Little Redheaded Girl and Woodstock. Janna Califf portrayed Peppermint Patty, Brook Turano was Marcie, and Kara Allen was Spike, Snoopy’s Australian brother.
The live music was certainly one of the highlights of this production. Professional musician William Groth was the pianist, enhancing the play with familiar jazz pieces and classical snippets. WHS Jazz Band members sophomore Jacob Joly (Bassist/Band Leader), sophomore David Reid (Drums), and freshman Max Palmer (Aux Percussion) also lended their musical talents to the play.
Rader choreographed “Suppertime,” a rousing Snoopy solo in which several cast members tap-danced. She was especially pleased with the cast’s performance in that number.
John L Peacock was particularly happy with the comedic moments. The Sally Brown character has some of the funniest lines and songs in the script, and Gibson certainly did the part justice. Peacock said, “Always the clown, I was excited to see the great clowning moment during Sally’s temper tantrum, exclaiming ‘don’t tell me my life isn’t a Shakespearean tragedy.”
According to Rader and Peacock, the most challenging aspect of the production was bringing all of the elements together in such a short amount of time (basically, two months). Rader said, “We were lucky to have the support of Construction Technology and the Visual Arts and Music Departments, without whom this production would not be possible.” All of the set pieces were built by WHS students under the supervision of Mr. McKenna in Construction Technology.
Celico, as well as playing the title character, helped paint the set and learned the technical aspects of musical theater throughout the rehearsals. He said, “Musical theater, in my opinion, is something that every person should experience. I love bringing joy to audiences, especially the younger audience brought in by this show.”
Both directors were proud of the production and hope audience members will spread the word for future performances. “We are so proud of our entire cast and crew,” said Rader. “Everyone rose to the occasion and grew as artists throughout this process.”
Rader and Peacock welcome new members to the WHS Stagedogs. She notes that students interested in getting involved with theatre during the school year or over the summer may contact Mr. Peacock at [email protected].