Smithsburg High's 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown' offers upbeat, relatable fun
Kate Palmer, 17, of Hagerstown, grew up reading “Peanuts” in the Sunday comics with her grandmother.
So when Ashley Warfield, English and theater teacher at Smithsburg High School, announced that the drama club would present “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” Kate had never heard of the musical but she was familiar with the characters.
Kate researched and learned that the 1967 musical comedy based on the comic strip by Charles M. Schulz revisited the stage in 1999 as a Tony-award winning Broadway revival. She spent time watching videos and listening to the songs.
“I really liked everyone’s interpretations of the characters and the way they played them. There are different messages from different characters that spoke to me,” she said. “They go through hardships and all, but they are motivated and persistent. And it’s very fun.”
On Kate’s 18th birthday on March 23, she will star as Charlie Brown in the Smithsburg High School Drama Club production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and her grandmother plans to watch from the audience. The show will run Friday, March 22, and Saturday, March 23, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 24, at 2:30 p.m. Tickets cost $8.
The story revolves around a social circle of young children. Charlie Brown is a meek, nervous, self-conscious fellow who struggles to fly a kite or kick a football.
Despite the character’s bouts of pessimism, “There is something about Charlie Brown that is really special to me. Not the depressed part, but that even as he goes through things, he is strong-willed and persistent,” Kate said. “I have moments when I’m playing him where he is really excited and I have a childlike excitement in my eyes. I like portraying that.”
The characters in the show are between four and six years old. To convey a child’s world, set pieces are oversized, making the actors seem smaller than they are.
The production double casts three of the characters — Schroeder, Snoopy and Lucy.
Kayla Hegbe, 17, of Hagerstown, will portray pianist and classical music lover, Schroeder, in the Friday and Sunday shows. Kayla said her previous theatrical experience did not include musicals, and that the plays in which she performed were of a much darker nature.
In the past couple of years, the Smithsburg High School Drama Club has staged “Dracula” and “Nightfall With Edgar Allan Poe.” In the latter play, Kayla acted as a character who suffered from depression and “couldn’t find motivation to do anything.”
“Schroeder is very different because he is so passionate about and motivated by music,” Kayla said. “And it’s really cool because I love the person who plays Lucy and I have to act disgusted around her. That’s pretty fun to do.”
The music of the show is contemporary and “a little jazzy,” she said, and as a high school band member, she relates to Schroeder.
“‘Beethoven Day,’ my solo song, is my favorite song in the entire musical,” Kayla said. “There are many different emotions conveyed through the music. There are moments you’ll be happy and smiling, and moments that probably, I hope, will make you shed a tear or two.”
Gabby Johnson, 18, of Smithsburg, is an assistant stage manager for the musical. Smithsburg High School’s drama program had just started back up when she was a freshman and she became involved as a stage technician. Working on non-musical productions helped to prepare her for the challenge of technical work necessary to pull off “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” she said.
“It’s definitely very different. ‘Nightfall’ and ‘Dracula’ just had standard set pieces,” Gabby said. “This musical has a lot more intricate work. There is a lot more to remember. Thankfully, we have a well-seasoned cast and technical crew working on it.”
Featuring songs like “Happiness,” “My New Philosophy,” and “Little Known Facts,” the musical is a crowd pleaser, Gabby said.
“I know personally, I find the show very funny. I get a good laugh out of it. Each character has their own unique feelings. Everyone will be able to relate to a character in some way, if not all of them,” she said. “It’s very upbeat, a good family show for anyone who wants to bring children. It’s definitely something worth seeing.”
Top photo: Kate Palmer plays Charlie Brown, in Smithsburg High School’s upcoming production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” (Photo by Colleen McGrath)