Brown a Great Hit!
This spring I directed the musical,
"You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" at the Brophy Elementary
School in Framingham, MA. The cast consisted of twenty 3rd through
5th graders, most of whom had never performed onstage before. When
I put out the call to see who was interested in being in the show,
thirty students responded. However, due primarily to space restraints,
I limited the cast to twenty. I revised the script, adding extra
parts from the strips and my daughter's collection of Peanuts
books so that each character would have at least one line. I cut
a few of the songs which I thought would be too hard ("Book
Report" and "The Kite.")
Several parents volunteered to be
my production staff: Collen Biron, a wonderful Boston Conservatory
trained choreographer; Leslie Lomot, who served as rehearsal pianist
and general advisor; Amira Acre Grosser, a Julliard-trained pianist
who painstakingly rehearsed with the soloists and played the show;
and Andrew Amster, an incredible artist who co-designed and painted
our gorgeous sets. Other parents coordinated costumes and the program;
my 12-year-old daughter Alison organized the props and her side
of the backstage area; others ultimately helped backstage.
I hadn't directed a show in four
years, so it was particularly wonderful re-discovering all of the
exercises and warm-ups which I used to help the children focus,
discover and develop their characters, and foster community. Over
the course of ten weeks and eleven full-cast rehearsals, the children
pulled together. My nine-year-old daughter played Charlie Brown
with just the right sense of bewilderment and frustration. Her voice
carried both "The Baseball Game" and "Happiness"
to new heights. Another third-grader played Snoopy. It was amazing
and gratifying to see her grow into the part, until both of her
solo numbers, "Suppertime" and "Snoopy", emerged
as rollicking show-stoppers. We added a great song from the Broadway
revival, "My New Philosophy," and found that the third-grader
cast as Sally Brown had an incredible voice she never realized she
possessed - her mother promised to find her a voice teacher as soon
as the show was over.
Others grew remarkably, as well.
One of the girls with a very small part emerged as our primary stagehand.
She took her role very seriously - always running on with the crate
or prop at the crucial time. Jennie, the girl who played Lucy, gave
an oral report to her fourth-grade classroom a few days before the
show. Her teacher made a point of telling me that Jennie's public
speaking skills had improved remarkably from the beginning of the
I love being involved in the technical
aspects of a production as well as directing. We rented a gorgeous
follow spot (light) and used it not only to compensate for the lack
of sufficient stagelights, but also to highlight the soloists and
bring color to the show. I agonized over the sets and props, working
with Andy and my daughter Alison to design it all, which was particularly
difficult since we couldn't use the stage until five days before
the show. It ultimately worked seamlessly - a single platform downstage
left served as a variety of locations; three flats upstage represented
scenes from the strips; a perfectly Schulzian doghouse upstage right
was inhabited by Snoopy; two crates served as stools, the TV, the
The performances for the school
and for parents and friends were on June 4th. Now, at the end of
the month, my daughters are still talking about it, re-living moments.
Alison is writing a new musical, "Charlie Brown II," with
different characters singing their hearts out to the already established
tunes. All of the cast and parents have begged me to do another
show next year. They've discovered the magic of theater, and want
to experience it again and again. So do I.