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Wit, Wisdom & Laughter

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Charlie Brown

From left, Kylie Hansen as Woodstock, Lydia Ouverson as Lucy, Randy Davenport as Charlie Brown and Sarah Betz as Snoopy rehearse for the Stebens Children's Theatre performance of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." 

MASON CITY | “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” is classic, simple, timeless and funny.

“In my experience, the audience gets in this mood of laughing,” said Tom Ballmer, executive director of Stebens Children’s Theatre, where the musical opens Friday.

“I think you just start laughing and end up having a great time," he said. "The wit and wisdom of Charles Schulz just carries you.”

This is Ballmer’s fourth time directing Schulz’s popular musical based on the comic strip "Peanuts."

Although it first opened off-Broadway in 1967 it’s not too dated, according to Ballmer.

The reviews when it first opened “talked about how the play and talent made it look effortless and seamless. Simple to do. Simple to stage,” Ballmer said. “That’s why it fits so well on our stage. We rely on our kids’ talents,” along with the musical director, choreographer and costumes.

“The show turned around when the costumes got put on,” he said.

Randy Davenport plays Charlie Brown. Unlike his character, Davenport had never flown a kite.

“It’s all miming,” Davenport said of his song, ‘The Kite.’ “It’s a challenge. So I don’t know what it’s supposed to look like.”

“Ashley (Graf) said he made the choreography work,” Ballmer said. Graf is the choreographer.

“I do have fun with it,” Davenport said. “I really enjoy playing Charlie Brown. A lot of the time I’m talking directly to the audience, interacting with them. It’s always fun when you get to interact with the audience.”

Sarah Betz plays Snoopy.

“He’s an iconic character,” Betz said.

One challenge, according to Betz, is portraying the character that audiences know so well. The other involves Snoopy’s house.

“It’s hard to do certain things on the dog house” without sliding off," Betz said.

“She’s our funniest Snoopy,” Ballmer said. “It’s interesting because Snoopy – he is a dog but he has so many human qualities. You have to keep both sides in balance.”

Andrew Bailey’s challenge is different from the others. He plays Jose Patterson.

“Andrew has to take a lesser-known character and make it interesting,” Betz said.

Ballmer said Bailey’s character is in “a vignette that has some controversy.”

“We actually kind of toe the line a couple of times in the show,” Davenport said. “A little bit of social commentary-type stuff we don’t normally get into.”

Though he’s only in a few scenes, Bailey’s also in charge of the lighting.

“For this show, there’s a lot of really subtle changes,” Bailey said.

There’s a variety show aspect to the production, according to Ballmer.

“Tiny little bits – two to three lines of dialogue,” Davenport said. “That is it. Not related to anything else in the show.”

“It’s really funny,” Davenport added. “Just funny the entire way through.”

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