Wilkes University brings ‘Charlie Brown’ to Wilkes-Barre stage
WILKES-BARRE — Lucy coaxes and cajoles and promises not to say a word, until Charlie Brown finally confides his secret wish: “I’d like to be called ‘Flash.’”
“Hey, listen to this,” she shouts, running off to tell the first people she sees.
Good grief! Argh! We know what it feels like because, after all, didn’t a kid-size yet painful betrayal like that happen to all of us, back in our grade-school days?
“Charlie Brown is super relatable,” said Melissa Berardelli, who plays the bossy Lucy in Wilkes University’s production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” Feb. 17 through 26 at the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts.
“He’s been dealt some very bad cards,” said Justin Gaskill, who plays Charlie Brown. “But he never gives up.”
Maybe that’s why so many people love the characters Charles Schulz created more than 50 years ago. We see ourselves in the little kid who practices and practices just what he’ll say when he hands a heart-shaped card to a friend and then, at the crucial moment, slips up and says “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Or in the boy who holds onto a security blanket despite the best efforts of his big sister to pry it away.
“A blanket to a child is as important as a hobby is to an adult,” Michael Rogers says in his role as Linus, which also includes dancing with the blanket as if it’s a matador’s cape, and then dancing with it as if it’s a human partner.
For his role as Snoopy, Kris Tjornhorn has adopted such canine mannerisms as howling and scratching.
“Every chance I get I play with dogs,” he said with a laugh, admitting he likes to visit a local pet store. “Usually we go there every Friday, and when I got the role I thought, ‘This is perfect (preparation).’”
The students who portray little kids have adopted a special body language as well.
“I’m a teenager and my shoulders tend to slouch,” Berardelli said. “But Lucy stands really straight, with her hands on her hips, a lot. Little kids have a kind of awkwardness, but they’re confident.”
They have lots of reasons to be confident. Consider Sally, Charlie Brown’s little sister, who argues and argues with her teacher about getting a C for her coat-hanger artwork until Miss Othmar relents and gives her a better grade.
Schroeder, the little Beethoven fan, pursues his goal of becoming a great piano player with zeal, and Lucy dreams of being in charge someday — as queen. When her studious brother informs her she’s not of royal lineage, she is not dismayed.
“There must be a loophole!” she insists.
The musical undoubtedly will remind people of the comic strip on which it was based, but cast and director say it’s not kid stuff.
Among the important messages, cast member Joshua Shepard said, “You can find happiness in little things and in yourself.”
There’s also a lesson adults can take from the show, especially during the modern political climate, director Jon Liebetrau pointed out. “The characters are children, and they show how we’re all different, yet we can all get along.”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT
IF YOU GO
What: ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’
Where: Dorothy Dickson Darte Center, 100 W. South St., Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre
When: Feb. 17 to 26 with performances 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. No performance on Feb. 19.
Tickets: $10, $5 students and seniors