• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

‘Charlie Brown’ returns to WCHS stage – 15 years later

CONNOR AKERS, pictured in front, portrays Charlie Brown in the upcoming production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” at Woodford County High School. Also pictured, from left, are Jaid Goh (Snoopy), MaKenna Henehan (Sally), Abby Potts (Lucy) and Jonah Crockett (Linus) during a recent rehearsal. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Longtime theatre teacher Ken Tonks didn’t know if he wanted to bring “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” back to the Woodford County High School stage – at first. And then he remembered how much his students got out of the show during rehearsals and performances in 2002. “It’s a really fun show,” says Tonks. And it’s a musical that allows WCHS students to showcase their individual talents during solo performances as Charlie Brown, Sally, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder and Snoopy – iconic characters created by cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. “It’s recognizable because the characters are recognizable,” says Tonks. His students know less about these fictional characters than their parents do. Yet, the life lessons in the “Peanuts” comic strips still resonate with kids of all ages, including students in the upcoming production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” “I really love my character because I relate to Schroeder so much,” explains WCHS sophomore Kevin Lausche. “He’s obsessed with playing (piano), and I play piano any time that I can play piano. “He’s obsessed with Beethoven and I also … like classical composers and musicians like Beethoven and Mozart.” As Lucy (a role she shares with Kennedy Geilear), WCHS senior Abby Potts gets to play a fictional character who’s not a very nice person. “It’s just fun to do,” she says of playing a personality that’s very different than hers. WCHS freshman Jonah Crockett kept a blanket around his neck – onstage and off – during a recent rehearsal. He says, “A lot of people told me … you look like a Linus” – even before he got his blanket. WCHS sophomore Connor Akers says he’s had a lot of fun getting to know Charlie Brown, an iconic character often depicted as a “lovable loser” in the long-running Peanuts comic strips. Asked about playing Charlie Brown’s pet beagle (also portrayed by Jaid Goh), WCHS senior Annabelle Crockett says, “Snoopy’s got his own little personality … He’s sassy.” By choosing a “multi-cast” for the 2002 WCHS production, Tonks gave 12 students a chance to bring the “Peanuts” characters to life. Paul Bradley and Paul Hartsell played Charlie Brown; Ashley Stivers and Ella Wilhoit played Sally; Brittny Congleton, Natalie Cunningham and Kayla Shouse played Lucy; Jon Mandt and Josh Nicholas played Linus; Lucas Gravitt and Kevin McVey played Schroeder; and Justin Adams was Snoopy. By double-casting the Lucy, Snoopy and Sally (portrayed by MaKenna Henehan and Bella Wolfe) roles for the upcoming production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” Tonks will again give more students a chance to showcase their onstage talents. “This is a really strong group of singers, and they’re good dancers too,” he says. First-year WCHS choir director Cooper Schrimsher has been working with students on their solos and chorus numbers as musical director. And he has been “pleasantly surprised” by their performances in rehearsals. “Some of these kids have blown away my expectations,” he explains. “They’ve taken (a) character and absolutely have just made it come to life. “I’m absolutely blown away by their energy.” Besides being cast as Schroeder, Kevin has been given an opportunity to do some choreography for the show. And Sarah Murner (student-musical director) and Sydney Owen (student-director) are gaining valuable behind-the-scenes experience as well. “This show is fun,” says Connor, “but it’s also a lot of work.” One of the challenges faced by the cast has been adjusting their singing voices to perform onstage as very young kids collectively known as the “Peanuts.” “Adapting our voices to songs in ‘Charlie Brown’ is just really phenomenal, and incredible to sing,” says Kevin. Performances of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 16 to 18, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, March 19, at 3 p.m., at the WCHS cafeteria. Tickets (available at the door) are $15 for adults and $10 for students.

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