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Stone Stages 'Charlie Brown'

Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Woodstock — the whole gang comes to life in Stone Middle School's production of the musical, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."

It will be presented Thursday and Saturday, Nov. 20 and 22, at 3:30 p.m., and Friday, Nov. 21, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 at school during lunch, or at the door.

Director Lois Walsh guides a cast of 25 and crew of eight, aided by chorus master Jerilyn Polson. Parent Kathy Nerger plays piano, and student Michael Randall plays drums. Featured dancers are Joyce and Ellie Kim, Catie Lightburn and Taylin Frame.

"I'm so proud of them," said Walsh. "They're enthusiastic and energetic, and they had to rearrange a lot of their world — soccer, music lessons, etc. — to participate. We rehearse three times a week and on Saturdays, and they're doing a really good job."

Russell Wagoner plays Charlie Brown, and the story's about a day in his life. A seasoned actor at age 11, Russell also played this part at Bull Run Elementary and was a lost child in Westfield Summer Stage's production of "Peter Pan." Still, he was nervous when auditioning for this play.

"I didn't really expect to get such a big role as a seventh-grader," he said. "I felt honored." He describes Charlie Brown as kindhearted, but someone taken advantage of by others. "He's the butt of every joke," said Russell. "He always has a good idea at heart, but it never works out — because he's Charlie Brown."

He said the toughest part is having so many lines to memorize and finding the right octave for singing. But he loves working with his castmates because "they and the director and choral advisor are really nice people. I'm gonna miss everyone when we're done."

Annie Stevenson, 12, portrays Charlie Brown's trusty dog, Snoopy. "He craves attention from [his master] and acts like a person to the audience," she said. "The hardest part is remembering to act like a dog and scratch myself. I'm mostly on top of my doghouse, but I involve the audience in the play because — although I bark to the cast — I talk to the audience and to Woodstock [the bird] normally."

While admitting it's "kinda hard to get into the character of a dog," Annie said it's fun because he's a dog and the dog — second in importance in the play only to Charlie Brown. She also considers Snoopy "kind of the conscience of the play."

WEARING A hot-pink dress with black polka dots, matching socks and shiny, black, patent-leather shoes, Rhya Sanders, 14, plays Sally, Charlie's little sister. "She's a ditzy blonde, crazy and outgoing, and I feel that fits my personality," said Rhya. "She's spontaneous and is a fun character to play. Most of the other characters are bossy and uptight, but I like being fun-loving and nice and making people laugh."

Sally also injects humor when it's needed most. "When the scenes get serious or people start yelling at each other, she'll come in and say the most random things, ever," said Rhya. "For example, Linus will be telling his philosophy of something, and she'll say, 'You know what? I had spaghetti last week.'"

She said the play is a real crowd-pleaser. "We've been really working hard on it, and I'm glad to be part of it 'cause it makes you feel like you're part of a family," said Rhya. "And it's fun to see everybody develop and get into their characters so well."

Walsh's son Zack, who's "7 turning 8," plays Woodstock — complete with yellow feathers. "He's a bird who flaps his wings and follows Snoopy everywhere," said Zack. "I get to sing lots of songs — almost every song that Snoopy's in. It's fun; I finally get to play a big part in a show."

He said it's "really cool to go on stage and play like a bird." When not busy acting, he likes to draw cartoons. In fact, he said, "Snoopy was the first character I could draw."

Portraying Peppermint Patty is eighth-grader Sarah Cowdery, 13. She wears a striped shirt and sandals and has cosmetic freckles. "She's kind of a tomboy, but fun and kind of ditzy," said Sarah. "She's a good friend and has a crush on Charlie Brown."

PEPPERMINT PATTY is best friends with Marcie, and Sarah said it's fun to keep asking Marcie for the answers to test questions in school and to act dumb, just like the character does in the comic strip. Added Sarah: "The audience will like the play a lot because it's really funny and we have a good cast."

Claire Manship, 12, plays Marcie, looking bookish in big, black-rimmed glasses. "She's a smart, dorky person who's always correcting Peppermint Patty," said Claire. "She's a fun character and is confused about stuff. For example, she doesn't know how to dye Easter eggs — she always fries them."

She said Marcie's also bewildered about "the fun stuff about being a kid, so she does something either really little-kidish or kinda old. She's out of tune with the other kids." Saying she loves to act, sing and dance, Claire is enjoying being part of the ensemble and performing on stage.

Sarah McNicholas, 12, portrays Lucy, the older sister of Charlie's friend, Linus. She wears a blue dress, matching socks and black-and-white saddle shoes and describes her character as forceful and crabby. "She has a heart, but acts tough — although she really does care and can get sentimental," said Sarah. "But mostly she thinks highly of herself."

Lucy's in love with neighborhood kid Schroeder, who plays piano. And she tries to make Charlie feel bad — just because she can. "Off stage, I'm the total opposite," said Sarah. She said it's tough to sing as high and loud as her role demands and "to be so crabby." But she likes having lots of scenes. "It makes me feel special," she said. "And it's fun playing a little girl with a really high intelligence."

Portraying Schroeder is Dan Calabrese, 14, in orange-striped shirt, white tennies and orange socks. "He loves Beethoven and, when anyone makes fun of Beethoven, he gets really mad," said Dan. "I like playing him because, in real life, I like Beethoven, too. I think the best kind of music in instrumental."

MATT REDABAUGH, 13, plays Linus, who carries a baby-blue blanket and sometimes sucks his thumb. "He's one of the youngest of the kids, but he's the smart one, so he intimidates the others — but they still like him," said Matt. "He gives lots of speeches about life in general."

He said it's "awesome" playing Linus because he's learning a new vocabulary and "the character is cool because he has all these great ideas. And I believe in the Great Pumpkin, too." His favorite part, he said, is his dance scene with his blanket.

Danielle Foglio, 13, is in charge of lighting, "making sure the spotlight is on the right person and is the right colors. You need to know which of 10 different levers on each light to pull." Both Danielle and assistant stage manager Erin Calabrese, 13, praised director Walsh and assistant director Mary King for all their help and support. Said Erin: "They always take pride in our work."