When Maggie Kern first agreed to direct the McLean Theatre Alliance's production of "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown," she had no idea how enamored she would become with the show.
"We got to rehearsing and I just fell in love with it," says Kern, who previously directed "Cinderella" for the McLean Theatre Alliance. "It's so full of hope and optimism, and it's got something for everyone. I really think anyone can enjoy this show."
The musical, which opens this Friday at the Alden Theatre at the McLean Community Center, tells the tale of a day in the life of Charlie Brown. However, within that one day are many days – Valentine's Day, April Fool's Day and baseball season, to name a few.
"It opens up in the morning and it ends in the evening, and it's told through a series of vignettes," says Kern.
In addition, these vignettes mimic the cartoon in that they are told in a 4-panel form. The show originally opened in 1967, but in 1999, a revised version opened on Broadway. That version was nominated for four Tony Awards, two of which it won – Roger Bart for Best Featured Actor, and Kristin Chenoweth for Best Featured Actress.
WITH SIX CHARACTERS, the cast is small. Auditions took place in December and rehearsals have been going on four days a week since. Kern and all of the cast members agree that the creation of the show has gone exceedingly well.
"The cast is phenomenal," says Kern. "They take direction really well. We have a lot of seasoned performers, so I can't say that there have been any challenges. It's just been delightful."
Rachael Goldman plays the role of Lucy. She says that the very nature of the show has made it enjoyable to work on.
"It's a very comical show," says Goldman. "The songs are really witty, and the lines are really witty and humorous."
Tim Adams, who plays the role of Linus agrees.
"It's like being kids again," says Adams.
Chuck Dluhy plays the role of Snoopy and subsequently gets quite a workout on stage.
"I get to play a really crazy dog," laughs Dluhy. "I have to dance around while I am singing, so I am out of breath up there."
Despite its lighthearted comic strip feel, mastering the songs was no easy task.
"The music is quite complicated at times," says Laurie Mensing, producer of the show and a resident of McLean.
The show's pianist Shirley Pickett, also a resident of McLean, agrees.
"It is cute," says Pickett. "It's not melodic, it's very young. It's not like our music was in 'Cinderella.'"
The atypical harmonies have proven to be demanding for the actors.
"Being a tenor and having to sing at the bottom has been a challenge," said Adams.
Rachael Goldman has also found aspects of her character to be challenging.
"For me it's hard to put on a different voice and sing out of tune on purpose," she said.
The show, while making its audience laugh, also touches on some real human themes and tugs at the heartstrings. Mensing said that while watching a rehearsal last week, she found herself in tears during the last scene. Pickett agrees that the overall message of the show is poignant.
"Charlie thinks he can't fly a kite, he thinks he can't play baseball, and yet, people still love him," says Pickett.
It is perhaps this theme of acceptance and understanding that makes the show appealing to people of all ages.
"Each character helps another character to learn something about themselves," says Goldman. "This show is just so much fun. I've had such a great time being in it."
TICKETS FOR THE McLean Theatre Alliance production of "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" can be bought at the Alden Theatre box office at the McLean Community Center- locaterd at 1234 Ingleside Avenue in McLean- or through Ticketmaster. The number for the box office is 703-790-9223. Tickets may be bought up until one hour before the start of the show. The number for Ticketmaster is 703-573-SEAT. For more information, or to find out information about group pricing, call 703-790-0128, or visit the McLean Theatre Alliance web site at www.mcleantheatrealliance.org. Tickets are $15 with assigned seating. Discounts are available for seniors, students, residents and groups. The show runs February 17-March 4, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m.