SHINGLE SPRINGS — Matt Howlett watched all of the Peanuts holiday specials as a child. “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” is one of his favorites with good reason — one of his ancestors, John Holland, is mentioned.
“He (Holland) fell off the Mayflower and they mention him in ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,’” Howlett said. “That’s how I relate to Peanuts.”
Howlett is playing one of the two leading roles in the Ponderosa High School Drama Department’s spring musical comedy, “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.”
Hannah Christiansen is the other lead Lucy van Pelt.
The Ponderosa production is based on the 1967 musical comedy by Clark Gesner with inspiration from the “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schulz.
No football for Charlie Brown!
There will be no scene of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown to boot, only for her to pull the football away at the last second.
“That’s probably good because I’d miss it anyway,” Howlett said. “Charlie Brown and I have that in common; we’re frequently bad at things we attempt.”
Howlett describes Brown’s character as self-deprecating.
“It’s as if he’s got all the weight on his shoulders,” said Howlett, “but he’s so young. It’s interesting for me as a senior in high school getting ready to make my mark on the world to see the problems Charlie Brown thinks are life-threatening.”
Knowing the characteristics of the role he’s playing, in addition to growing up watching him on TV, has helped Howlett merge into character.
“I have to get my mind in that mind-set,” Howlett said. “That is very important to me.”
After Howlett graduates from Ponderosa in May and enjoys his summer, he’ll attend University of Nevada, Reno, where he plans to study political science. He then hopes to study law and become an attorney. He’s considering studying drama in college, too.
“I really would like to continue performing,” Howlett said.
First lead for Christiansen
Christiansen, a sophomore, was confident she would land a role in the production but not one of the two main leads. Jennifer Schmelzer, Ponderosa’s drama teacher and director of the musical, called her during Christmas break to give her the news.
“I didn’t expect to get the lead,” Christiansen said. “It was a little bit of a shock.”
This is Christiansen’s first lead in a high school play, but she’s been rehearsing her lines and solo songs she’s going to perform like a veteran.
“I wasn’t quite sure how to prepare because I haven’t been a lead before,” said Christiansen, “so I was learning how to prepare as I went.”
One of the actors helping Christiansen prepare for her performance is Gabe Dubin, a senior at Ponderosa who will play Linus.
“I was excited when I found out he got that part,” said Christiansen of Dubin. “He’s been looking out for me since I started doing productions at Ponderosa. He’s been like the big brother I’ve never had — always making sure that I was safe and that I had a ride home if my parents weren’t there after rehearsals. He’s encouraged me. He’s helped me learn lines. That’s been really helpful.”
As a freshman, Christiansen was one of the chorus members in the school’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.” She’s also part of the school’s choir and was a dancer for five years.
Come see the show
Schmelzer is thrilled about this upcoming production.
“‘You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown’ is one of the shows I’ve dreamed of doing for many years now,” Schmelzer said. “I just needed to find the right time. After doing productions of 40-plus cast member musicals and large-scale plays for two years in a row, it was time to scale it back and remember that musical theater does not need to be all glitz, glamour and huge amounts of kids on stage.”
Schmelzer invites the community to come and see this talented cast in this fun musical.
Cast and crew
The rest of the cast is: Schroeder (Kyle Sanderson), Sally (Sarah Mayo), Snoopy (Wade Anderson), Linus (Gabe Dubin).
The chorus includes: Mason Thomas, Wesley Kayne, Kenny Davis, Royce Cotcher, Tyler Scribner, Brianna Yost, Madison Crook, Rachel Richardson, Mandie Graziano, Kayleen Plummer, Amanda Novotny, Emily Sathis and Sarah Howlett.
Howlett and Christensen will perform solos in the musical along with songs by the entire company. Show tunes are “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” by the cast; “Schroeder” by Lucy; “Snoopy, Snoopy My Blanket and Me” by Linus and cast; “The Kite,” by Charlie Brown; “The Doctor is In” by Lucy and Charlie Brown; “Beethoven Day” by Schroeder and the cast; “The Book Report” by Charlie Brown, Lucy, Schroeder, Linus, Sally and Snoopy; “The Red Baron” by Snoopy; “My New Philosophy” by Sally and Schroeder; “The Baseball Game” by the cast and Glee Club; “Rehearsal” by Charlie Brown, Lucy, Schroeder, Linus, Sally and Snoopy; “Little Known Facts” by Lucy, Linus and Charlie Brown; ” Suppertime” by Snoopy and the cast; and “Happiness” by the cast.
The technical crew is: Jennifer McMahon and Aaron Garber, technical crew student stage managers; Sarah Kaslin, light board operator; Jennifer McMahon, music operator; Aaron Garber, sound board operator; Jennifer Schmelzer, set designer, costume designer and lighting designer; Phil Christiansen, Jim and Lori Novotny, Bob Thomas, Hal Anderson and Larry Cotcher, construction crew; Lisa Scribner and Nancy Christensen, costume assistants; Marc Dubin, lighting designer and lighting technician; Ila Dubin and Gina Bartok, backstage managers; The MT Pit LLC, musical recordings; Tams Whitmark, show licensing; Sarah Mosakowski and Nicole Stewart, set crew; and Desiree Thomas, head of hospitality crew.
Opening night is Thursday, March 29, at 7:30 p.m. After the Friday, March 30, showing at 7:30 p.m, the cast and crew will put on two shows Saturday, March 31, at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.
The cast and crew take spring break off. There are four more performances after the break on Thursday, April 12, and Friday, April 13, both at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 14, at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students.
For more information call (530) 672-8338.