You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown book reportGood Grief!! Ankeny Community Theatre is presenting the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown beginning Friday, December 7. All the familiar characters are here, singing and dancing their way through their eternally young and innocent world. Whether it’s Snoopy extolling the virtues of Suppertime or Schroeder spreading the word about Beethoven Day, everyone can find Happiness with the Peanuts gang.

Collected Characters

Playing the title character is a dream come true for Adam Haselhuhn. “I collect Charlie Brown and Peanuts comic strip memorabilia, so the characters have been important to me. On top of that, I frequently get told that I look like Charlie Brown (being bald helps with that!) so this has always been a role that I knew I’d want to do. I love the music in the show. It is such fun!”

Snoopy DeRogatisCollecting seems to be a hallmark of a number of the actors in this production. Drake student Melody DeRogatis won the role of Snoopy, and loves getting her chance to play the playful pup. “I have a collection of 6 or 7 plushie Snoopys. I’ve always found him funny, cute, and comforting in the sense that he’s consistent. I grew up going to ‘Camp Snoopy’ back when it was at the Mall of America, putting Snoopy ornaments on our Christmas tree every year, and watching the specials on TV... no matter how chaotic life has gotten as I’ve grown up, the same black and white beagle has always been there.”

The Charlie Brown Christmas Special is an absolute staple in my family,” says Ashley Rogers, who gets to perform as Lucy. “My dad and I in particular find ourselves quoting certain characters like clockwork during the holiday season. I wouldn't be surprised if we've got the whole thing down verbatim by now- and surprisingly enough- it's still just as wholesome, hilarious, and heartfelt all these years later. One character that I've always remembered fondly is Lucy. Though she's known for being bossy, bold, and a bit of a bully- I think there is more to her story.  In my opinion, the musical delves into those layers a bit more. Though she is indeed a comic strip character; I couldn't resist the chance to make her three-dimensional, tangible, and real.”

Ageless Characters

Obviously, these beloved characters have made an impact on everyone. The Peanuts gang is a welcome set of friends. You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is a wonderful show for audiences of all ages, much like the Peanuts comic strip itself. And the portrayal of the iconic characters in the musical really doesn’t have to change to appeal to both young and old.

Lucy Charlie BrownAs Rogers relates, “There’s a lovely quote from the Christmas Special that’s something to the effect of ‘Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.’ I believe staying true to the personality, movements, and behaviors of these characters is enough to bring them to life in a rather unforgettable way. After all- honesty is one of the best truths that young kids cling to; they never worry about the audience- just the way in which they view the world! In establishing particular Lucy-isms- I've tried to adhere to this mindset as well as her unapologetic stance on nearly everything.  Whether this pays homage to a childhood memory- or acts as the first introduction for a new generation- these characters will not disappoint.”

DeRogatis has her own theories on why Peanuts seems so universal. “They’re relatable to everyone. For children, the fascination with fireflies, crayons, and ice cream doesn't change-- from the 1940's until now. Those things have always been, will always be, here... sure, the times change and also give kids iPads, iPhones, and iPods... but at the end of the day, if you bring a kid a blade of grass and a stick, they'll find a way to turn it into a kingdom.”

Sally Linus“Now, for adults, the Peanuts contain a certain sense of relatability in their one-liners... while they are children, they can be surprisingly wise, so much so that it can make an adult go ‘ain't that the truth!’. Plus, that childish simplicity can make some adults envious for a simpler time in their life... so in any case, the Peanuts always manage to stay relevant!”

Haselhuhn believes the show works on multiple levels. “Honestly, I think while children will enjoy the show with all of the silliness and lighthearted fun,” he notes, “I think adults will really be the ones who enjoy this show the most. I think this show has come along at the perfect time in our world. The news is so negative and dark and I think this show is full of warmth, joy, and a lot of laughter. You'll leave the theater feeling good and I'm sure feeling better than when you came in.”

He feels great about his fellow cast and crew involved in Charlie Brown. “I think the newer version of the show that we are doing just modernized the production a bit. Adding in Sally to replace the very early Peanuts character of ‘Patty’ (not to be confused with Peppermint Patty!) and then also adding some musical numbers that are more upbeat and fun- I think it rounds out the show better and truly emphasizes each character in the show a bit more. This is a wonderful ensemble show and I couldn’t have asked for a better ensemble of local actors to be a part of. There has been laughter, tears (the show gets emotional!), but most of all so much joy. You can‘t help but smile.”

Lucy SchroederAnkeny Community Theatre prides itself on being a fully volunteer group, and is always encouraging new people to come be a part of their productions. DeRogatis and Rogers are doing their first shows with ACT, and they’ve found a welcoming family there. “I love working with Ankeny,” says DeRogatis, “because everyone who works there does it because they think theatre is fun! It makes for a great environment when working on a show, especially one as riveting as this! Plus, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown is one of my favorite musicals of all time, so it's a win-win!”

“I am so very lucky to be a part of this show,” says Rogers. “I relocated to the Des Moines area in April- and this production was my first opportunity to delve into the theater scene. It's been an absolute pleasure and honor to do so through the Ankeny Community Theater; everyone is so talented, hard-working, and dedicated to making this show vibrant. I can only hope I've found my second home in the area, and have more occasions to be involved in the future!”

For now, you can go see Linus, Sally, Schroeder, and the rest of the eternal Peanuts gang when You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown opens at the Ankeny Community Theatre next Friday, December 7. The show runs through Sunday, December 16, and tickets are available through the Ankeny Community Theatre website or Midwestix.

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Publicity photos provided by Amber and Greg Romans, A&G Romans Photo.

Ashley Rogers Melody DeRogatis Adam Haselhuhn Ankeny Community Theatre