‘Charlie Brown’ and his pals spreading the happiness
Beloved cartoonist and creator of the comic strip “Peanuts” Charles M. Schulz has been gone for 19 years, but his wit and wisdom live on in tributes such as Clark Gesner’s classic musical, “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.”
Stage Right Professional Theatre Company will bring his lovable characters – including Lucy, Snoopy, Linus and the rest of the gang – to life in three performances of the stage show Feb. 22-24 at The Lamp Theatre, Irwin.
Heading up the cast as misunderstood misfit Charlie Brown is Greensburg native Kevin Daniel O’Leary, known professionally as Cav O’Leary, who now lives in New York.
O’Leary, a graduate of Hempfield Area High School who studied at Penn State, Westmoreland County Community College and Point Park University and also performs with Saint Vincent Summer Theatre, said the Peanuts characters were a big part of his childhood.
“It’s been a privilege to come back and do this show with hometown friends I’ve known for a long time,” he said. “I’ve always really felt for Charlie Brown. He always has the very best of intentions and tries to do the best thing for everyone, but because of his doubts and insecurities, nothing seems to go right for him.”
Portraying Charlie Brown’s bossy friend, Lucy, referred to as “the original Mean Girl” by O’Leary, is Stage Right’s Renata Marino.
“Lucy today would be considered a feminist,” said Marino of her character. “Back then she was this crabby little girl who bossed people around and that’s what made her unique. But really, she was just acting in the ways little boys do. Needless to say I’ve always loved her and she is one of my favorite characters to play.”
The musical relives all the fun adventures of the Peanuts cartoons and TV specials, from flying a kite and kicking a football to ﬁghting the Red Baron and Charlie Brown’s crush on “the little red-haired girl.”
“The opportunity to be an 8-year-old again, their physicality and the freedom kids give themselves to dance and sing and be silly, that is the barrier we all need to get through to play any of these roles,” Marino said.
Actors sharing the stage with Marino and O’Leary include Anthony Marino as Snoopy, Greg Kerestan as Schroeder and Nick Lenz as Linus.
O’Leary says if there’s a takeaway message with “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” it’s that life can serve up a lot of disappointment, but there’s always hope at the end of the day.
“Happiness isn’t necessarily based on big, life-changing events; it can be found in the smallest things and in the people who stick by you through everything,” he said.
Renata Marino agrees and said the musical’s main message can be found in the lyrics of the last song in the show, “Happiness.”
“It’s a thing we know as kids and then sadly some of us forget it – ‘Happiness is anyone and anything at all, that’s loved by you.’ Beautiful,” she said.
Renata was last seen in Stage Right’s “Mamma Mia” and will portray Mary Magdalene in the company’s spring production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” She also is choreographing musicals for Kiski and Hempfield Area high schools and Greensburg Salem Middle School, as well as Saint Vincent Summer Theatre’s upcoming season. She is a professor of dance at Saint Vincent College.
Among O’Leary’s many roles are Sparky in “Forever Plaid,” Rick Steadman in “The Nerd,” Felix Unger in “The Odd Couple” and Lionel Toop in “See How They Run.”
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.