Tonawanda News

March 14, 2013

East sings tribute to a favorite good man

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — These are the images of childhood: A beloved blue blanket. A kite-eating tree. A little yellow bird. A white, black-eared beagle with a red doghouse and an active imagination.

And one black-zig-zag-striped, iconic yellow shirt.

Kenmore East High School will present the musical, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” today through Saturday at the school in the Town of Tonawanda. To stage director and producer John Vogt, the show starring everyone’s favorite blockhead represents childhood — and all the insight and humor it entails.

“To me, it represents a lot of my own childhood,” he said. “I always like to do shows where I feel I have a connection.

“I think that Charlie Brown represents wisdom, and there are so many messages and thoughts about how to treat each other. It’s social commentary disguised as comedy ... and a comic strip. I like that.”

Instead of an overarching storyline, the musical is composed of vignettes focusing on the familiar characters in episodic comic strip fashion, Vogt said. 

“If you know Charlie Brown and the Peanuts game, it’s like a day in the life,” he said, adding that this sort of show can be difficult for the actors. “There’s no plot. They have to be really on their game.”

However, “They’re super excited, which is always good. It’s always good to work with a cast who embraces the characters, which I think this group does.”

Mitchell Ostrowski, a senior will don the yellow and black shirt to play the title character, the perennial underdog around whom the show — and the comic strip before it — revolves.

“It brings out the inner child. It should be fun for people who have watched Charlie Brown for years to children who don’t really know who Charlie Brown is,” he said. “To play such an iconic character, around for years before I was even born ... it’s a huge honor.

“I relate to Charlie Brown. He’s kind of a blockhead ... but he has a lot of friends. It’s an interesting role to play.”

Kelly Rife, a senior, plays Sally Brown, Charlie’s little sister. She loves the role, she said, because “I can be immature, which is a good thing.”

“Most of us really bring ourselves into our characters, which is also a good thing,” Rife said. “I really like Sally. She’s the naive one of the group. Sometimes she doesn’t know what’s going on ... which is me, at times.”

Even better, she said, is that her best friend plays her brother in the show, “which is awesome. We’re like a family.”

While the show differs from the comic strip and cartoons in some ways (Snoopy speaks!), many images are familiar, including Lucy’s “psychiatric help 5¢” booth, Charlie Brown’s luck (or lack thereof) at baseball and Snoopy’s ongoing battle with the Red Baron.

Ryan Burow, a junior who plays Snoopy, noted that the role is a unique one because “everyone has their own idea of who Snoopy is.” However, he’s up for the challenge.

“Give me the right moment,” he said, “and I’m hopping off the walls ... just like Snoopy.”

The cast also includes Amanda Schultz as Lucy Van Pelt, Nick Limina as Linus Van Pelt, Lindsay Andrews as Peppermint Patty, Rhett Boswell as Schroeder, Elaina Hill as Woodstock, Katie Benware as Frieda, James Benders as Pig Pen, Kathleen Kane as Violet, Michael Ta as Franklin, Alex Kane as Shermy, Hannah Raymond as Marcie and Julianne Yendall as The Little Red-Haired Girl. Jill Neuhaus is music director.

IF YOU GO • WHAT: "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday • WHERE: Kenmore East High School, 350 Fries Road, Town of Tonawanda • TICKETS: Pre-sale tickets are $7 and are available at the school's main office from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. At the door, tickets are $9.