The Knights Theatre Company is returning to the stage for the first time since 2019 with its production of the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
Students in the Sandwich High School’s theater company last opened to a live audience with “Fame” in November of 2019. The production of “A Chorus Line” was set to open in March of 2020, but came to a halt due to the pandemic.
Rebecca Dykas, a junior whose responsibilities in the show range from Snoopy’s understudy to dance captain to ensemble cast member, said that “Charlie Brown” is a feel-good show that is the perfect antidote to the past year and a half.
“With COVID-19 and all that’s going on, people have had to mature faster,” she said. “This show is all about childhood. It will be good for people to enjoy that part of life again.”
Featuring iconic characters like Charlie and Sally Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and Linus, Schroeder, and Woodstock, the cast and crew have stayed true to the material, said Aimee Champagne, the senior cast as Lucy.
She said that the costumes the cast wears are accurate to the comic strip and original cartoons. The backdrop has also been painted in the same style as the cartoons, including the classic red doghouse that Snoopy calls home.
“We’re bringing back those childhood memories,” she said. “We’re trying to do that as much as possible.”
Woodstock understudy Harper Barton, a junior, said that the show is happy and really fun.
“This show is what everyone needs after quarantine,” she said.
After spending a year off the stage, several of the cast members said that it was both exciting and nerve-wracking to have a live audience again soon. While the company still produced performance art last year, both productions were pre-recorded and presented virtually.
“I think it seems surreal to be back in front of an audience,” said Tristan McCartney, a junior who plays Linus. “That energy will be projected and the audience will see that and it will be a good show.”
Junior Chloe Whalen, who plays Sally, said that she is anxious — in a good way — to be on stage again.
“The best part of performing in front of a live audience again is being nervous before the curtain opens,” she said. “I miss those feelings and am happy to experience that again.”
Luke MacDonald, a junior who plays Schroeder, said that he was nervous to even audition for the show after being away from the stage for so long. He said that he second guessed himself and wondered if he would still have the chops.
However, he found that he really did not have much to worry about.
“That work effort doesn’t really leave you,” he said. “It always comes back.”
He likened it to riding a bicycle.
Senior Raphael (Ray) Milburn, who plays Snoopy, said that he also had concerns about getting involved in a live production again.
He wondered if he could possibly have the energy for the show, especially during a year when he is also working on college applications. While he has been particularly tired, that has not been a bad thing.
“I walk out of rehearsal exhausted every day and it is the best feeling in the world,” he said.
Owen McDevitt, a senior who plays Charlie Brown, said that he had been starting to lose interest in theater overall before deciding to audition for the show.
However, being back on stage with this cast has changed that.
“I want to be here,” he said. “I got the feeling back that I had when I first started doing theater.”
The cast said that they will be wearing clear face masks on stage during the performance. This will keep them in line with the current pandemic protocols, while still allowing their facial expressions to come through to the audience.
Like most theaters in the state right now, the audience will be required to wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status since the production will be held indoors in the high school auditorium.
This is the first year that the directorial team of Melinda and Kevin Lasit have put together an understudy cast. The understudies will also have their own show to perform in.
Paige Burkey, a senior who is the understudy for Lucy as well as Peppermint Patty, said that having the dual roles has been challenging, but a great experience.
“I’m learning two different parts, which has been a little stressful, but super fun,” she said. “I’m proud of all of us for making it happen.”
Cameron Phillips, an 8th grader who is Schroeder’s understudy, said that this is his first time being in a play. He said that being the understudy for Luke has been particularly incredible.
“He’s the reason I’m here,” he said, adding that Luke’s performance in “Beauty and the Beast” is what got him interested in theater in the first place.
Sophomore Jorge Santos plays Woodstock and said that having Harper as his understudy has been awesome.
“I know that Harper has my back,” he said.
Harper said that the Woodstocks had their lines memorized on day one — in large part because the lines are essentially babble that sounds a lot like bubbles.
Watching someone else’s interpretation of the role has inspired some of his own performance, too, he said.
Ross said that while the understudies have had less rehearsal time in the roles than the main cast, it has been a great learning experience that has helped him grow as a performer.
Cassidy said that being in the understudy role has given her the chance to learn new things, much like the members of the company learned new things last year in terms of their filmed performances.
Mr. Lasit said that the show was chosen because he felt it was important to have fun after coming out of the pandemic and entering a new world.
“We’ve all been through so much and I didn’t want to direct a show with heavy themes or too serious content,” he said.
The “Charlie Brown” cast includes 41 students in grades 7 through 12 who have been having fun while facing the challenge of bringing such iconic characters to live, he said.
In the spring, the company will continue its theme of upbeat and uplifting theater with a production of “Mamma Mia,” which features the music of ABBA.
“You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” will run on November 12, 13, 19, and 20 at 7 PM and on November 14 at 2 PM. Tickets are $15 for adults and students and $10 for senior citizens and can be purchased at the door using cash or a check made out to Sandwich High School.