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THS stage turns into a playground

'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown' (the musical) opens Friday
by: Jaime Valdez, HAPPINESS — The whole gang gets together in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at Tigard High School this weekend. From left are Cody Bilbao as Charlie Brown, Stephanie Fekete as Snoopy, Patrick Browne as Schroeder, Adam Harris as Linus, Tiffany Smith as Sally and Andrea Varhan as Lucy.

TIGARD - There's a warm and cozy feeling on the stage at the Deb Fennell Auditorium at Tigard High School these days - sort of like the play that's now in rehearsal.

THS is presenting 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown' this weekend, directed by none other than Dan Murphy of the Broadway Rose Theatre Company.

The production is a musical comedy based on the characters created by cartoonist Charles M. Schultz in his comic strip, 'Peanuts,' that include Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, Sally and of course, Snoopy.

'It was originally written for the stage 30 or 40 years ago (and premiered on Broadway in 1971),' Murphy said. 'It was revived on Broadway (in 1999) and given a facelift and updated songs.

'The play is a series of different vignettes almost out of the comic strip, although there's no pulling-away-the football scene,' he said of Lucy setting up Charlie Brown over and over to kick the ball and yanking it out of the way at the last second. 'The kids have brought in samples from the comic strip. Some of the scenes are literally from the comic strip with the punch line.'

The set is actually made up of several large, colored blocks plus Snoopy's doghouse.

'This was student-driven,' Murphy said. 'The kids have been gathering the costumes and props. Everyone's taking ownership of it.'

A friend of Murphy's, Jon Dykstra, is the play's musical director. He plays the piano, accompanying the singers throughout the play. His wife Kellie, who is a vocal coach, came in and helped the students with their singing.

'This is a real barebones production,' Murphy said. 'Musicals are usually so expensive to produce. How this came about was that after not having musicals here for a couple years, I was asked at different times by parents, students and administrators to put together a play.

'I've done the Tualatin High School musicals for five years, and I feel arts and education should go hand in hand. Businesses want employees who think outside the box, and having a global perspective gives you an advantage. The edge over other contenders for a job is imagination - everyone can add 2 plus 2 - so stimulating kids' creativity gives them a huge advantage.'

Murphy said that his original plans were for a bigger production, but Principal Pam Henslee asked him to basically produce a musical on a zero budget.

'So we started out small,' he said. 'We're just doing it for one weekend. If we make any money, we'll sock it away for seed money for next year.

'The kids in the cast are great. They're pretty fearless, and I really admire them.'

The kids started rehearsing in mid-February and have been hard at work ever since, getting together every day after school Monday through Friday.

Freshman Cody Bilbao, who plays Charlie Brown, has a bit of a musical theater background: Last year, the eighth-grader was in Fowler Middle School's production of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.'

'I like acting and the people,' he said. 'I like staying after school and hanging out with the other kids. I'm hoping to take theater here.'

Freshman Patrick Browne plays Schroeder and thinks musical theater is fun to do.

'It's a fun thing to star in a play at Tigard High School,' he said.

Sophomore Stephanie Fekete likes her role 'because I get to lay on top of the doghouse a lot.'

Fekete has tried to get into Snoopy's head and has determined that 'he watches the humans and thinks he's better than them.'

'On the other hand, he's one of the gang and sings. But the humans can't understand him. The doghouse is cool, and that's pretty much where you find Snoopy most of the play.'

Freshman Adam Harris plays Linus and said that he was in 'all the Twality Middle School musicals.'

'I knew coming here that they were not doing musicals, but it's fun that they're doing this one,' he added. 'It's a lot of fun to be with these people after school.'

Freshman Andrea Varhan plays Lucy, which she enjoys because 'I get to be mean.'

A performer in Fowler's 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,' Varhan said that she's having lots of fun 'acting and singing and being with the other people in the cast.'

Senior Tiffany Smith plays Sally, Charlie Brown's sister, and previously acted in the THS production of 'Much Ado About Nothing.'

'Shakespeare compared to this is quite a change,' said Varhan, who sings in the chorolation and concert choirs and is in Thespians. 'It's really fun. I enjoy playing a kid. My character's crazy and temperamental.'

Junior Jen Levear is the stage manager who coordinates the sound cues 'and makes sure everything works. Dan's the stage crew.'

This is her first time being stage manager but she has directed a THS one-act play.

The cast is close and having a good time preparing for the play, and they just hope the audience will enjoy it as much as they do.

At a Glance

What: 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown'

When: Friday, April 13, and Saturday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 15, at 2 p.m.

Where: Tigard High School's Deb Fennell Auditorium, 9000 S.W. Durham Road

Tickets: Available at the door; $8 for adults, $7 for students and seniors

Information: Call the Box Office at 503-431-5409