Kent County Theatre Guild brings ‘Peanuts’ gang to stage

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Dan Guidice, left, of Dover plays Charlie Brown and Jose Bernard, also of Dover, is Snoopy as the Kent County Theatre Guild presents “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at its Dover theater starting Dec. 4. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER –– For the first time on stage, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will be performed together and the Kent County Theatre Guild’s got it starting Dec. 4.

“When I found out that the stage version (of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’) was available, it was a no-brainer,” said co-director Paul Janiga. “I knew we had to do it because it’s perfect for Christmas and something everyone will love.”

Both performances give a glimpse into the “Peanuts” world created by the late Charles Schulz with “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” set over the course of one day and “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” based on the holiday television classic, taking place over the course of a few weeks.

Mr. Janiga is co-directing with Patti Kozerski. Both have been involved with the Kent County Theatre Guild for more than 30 years but it’s the first time they’ve directed together.

“I’ve worked with Patti before and have always tried to get her a little more involved on the directing side and I

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Noah Mills, left, 15, of Wyoming, is Linus and Kelie Ford, of Clayton, is the always smitten Sally in the “Peanuts” productions.

thought this was a good opportunity for the both of us,” he said.

“It’s been great to have someone to bounce ideas off of and we really complement each other by pulling our strengths together,” Ms. Kozerski said.

Auditions were held in early November and an ensemble of 10 actors were chosen to portray the familiar Peanuts gang.

“The cast has been great,” Mr. Janiga said. “Most of them have worked together before and they’re friends off-stage too, which is always really helpful.”

The cast includes five high school students, a college student and four adults, with cast members from 14 to 37 years old.

“Even though it’s a pretty big age range, they gelled instantly, not only acting but with the singing too,” Ms. Kozerski said. “I know it’s only a cast of 10 but it’s a great blend of voices, so when they’re singing together it sounds like there’s 25 of them.”

The actors know each other not only through the Guild but some of the students are classmates and in the case of Snoopy and Lucy, the two are married in real life.

Husband and wife duo Jose (Snoopy) and Laini Bernard (Lucy) of Dover both work in education and started acting in high school and have done a handful of plays with the Guild over the past couple years.

Although the misadventures of Charlie Brown usually makes people think of the goings-on in the lives of elementary school pupils, the adult actors are enjoying going back to their childhood.

“For all of us, Charlie Brown lets us recapture a child-like wonder because we’re all portraying kids between 5 and 8, which gives us a chance to have a lot of fun with the roles,” Mr. Bernard said.

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Sean Scanlon, 17 of Camden as Schroeder and Lani Bernard of Dover as Lucy.

“I love the singing and the chance this play gives me to be a bit playful, because many of the other shows I’ve done are dramas or classics,” Mrs. Bernard said.

Aside from getting to be a kid again, the Bernards love their characters too.

“For me, the part of being Snoopy has a lot to do with body language because he doesn’t directly interact with the characters, because he doesn’t speak,” Mr. Bernard said. “But even though I don’t speak to the characters, it’s a really fun part because I’m the only one who gets to break the ‘fourth wall;’ I get to interact with the audience.”

Mrs. Bernard’s favorite part of the production is a scene where Schroder is playing the piano and Lucy gets bossy and sings loudly and off-key.

“As Lucy, I get to be really bossy and I’m not bossy at all in real life,” Mrs. Bernard said. “I think that one scene is really Lucy in a nutshell.”

“It’s a performance that’s really about childhood friendships and personal struggles,” Ms. Kozerski said. “Whether people are familiar with it or not, it’s a great show.”

Next week, the directors and cast will be working on final touches such as completing set pieces and costumes and working with the accompanists.

The show runs Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 8 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinée on Dec. 13. Tickets are $10 for students 12 and younger, $16 for seniors, military and full-time students with a valid school ID and $18 for adults.

Tickets can be purchased online at kctg.org or at the Patchwork Playhouse at 140 E. Roosevelt Ave. in Dover.

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From left, Lani Bernard as Lucy, Noah Mills as Linus, Ellie Blaier as Violet, Jalynn Simmons as Frieda, Dan Guidice as Charlie Brown, Jose Bernard as Snoopy, Sean Scanlon as Schroeder, Kellie Ford as Sally, Rita Welch as Patty and Alec Laise as Pig Pen are featured in the cast of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

 

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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