Christian Youth Theater stages ‘Charlie Brown’

By ROBYN ZELICKSON

Christian Youth Theater will stage its production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” Feb. 3-5 in the Pima Community College Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre. Performances run Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

The young actors are divided into two casts of 22 performers.

In one cast, Nathanial Ullman plays Charlie Brown. Ullman has been with CYT since its 2011 production of “Secret Garden.”

“I’ve always been in the arts and enjoyed music,” he said.

Ullman attends Empire High School and will attend Northern Arizona University in the fall on a scholarship, where he will major in music.

In the other cast, Tristan Acevedo plays Linus Van Pelt. Acevedo joined CYT in 2008. His first performance was in “Les Miserables.”

He is active in the Cienega High School marching band and just completed fundraising for a trip to Orlando to perform and to attend master music classes.

“This will be an opportunity of a lifetime for me,” Acevedo said of the Orlando trip. “I would also like to do community theater and perform in ‘Cats’ with Arts Express.”

Clark Gesner originally brought Charles M. Schultz’s “Peanuts” characters to life in a 1967 musical comedy.

The book for the show was credited to John Gordon, a collective pseudonym that represented the cast and production staff who all worked together to create the script.

In the beginning, Gesner’s music was merely a concept album and was produced on stage as a series of vignettes with musical numbers for each. Ultimately, an off-Broadway production was created, featuring Gary Burghoff as Charlie Brown.

In 1999, Gesner’s creation morphed into a Broadway musical comedy by director Michael Mayer and various collaborators, with new songs, choreography and sets.

Kristin Chenowith played Sally Brown and Roger Bart played Snoopy, with both winning Tony awards for their performances.

CYT director Sean William Dupont’s production honors Gesner’s version in a series of vignettes. Although Dupont started with CYT last fall, he has been involved in theater since his high school days at Santa Rita High School.

He has directed and performed in shows from Tucson’s Invisible Theatre to London, England’s East 15 Acting School, where he received his MFA in theatre directing.

He taught Introduction to Comedy for CYT in the fall and will teach other classes in the future. Dupont has experience in many areas of theater, including design, set building and lighting.

His biggest challenge in “Charlie” is managing the large group.

“Each cast has to get a fair share of rehearsal time but they watch and learn from each other,” Dupont said. “They encourage each other in order to put the best show forward.”

CYT is in the middle of its 11th season in Tucson. It began 32 years ago in San Diego and now has companies nationwide. Locally, CYT stages three shows per year, one each in fall, winter and spring.

The company hosts two summer camps and offers classes throughout the school year. Subjects range from basic theater through vocal and dance to backstage and technical arts. Often, the classes emphasize what will be needed for upcoming productions.

Heather Kerr, CYT’s artistic director since 2015, will also be the director for an upcoming production of “James and the Giant Peach.” Auditions will be held Feb. 17-18.

Kerr describes the scenes and costumes for “James” as having a unique steampunk design.

“We will be the first in Arizona to offer the full musical version of ‘James and the Giant Peach,’” Kerr said. “We will offer a puppetry class so that we can make the puppets for the insects inside of the peach.”

“Charlie Brown” tickets cost $15, and can be purchased online. For further information, visit cyttucson.org or call 751-7510.


FYI

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”

Where: Proscenium Theatre, CFA, West Campus

When: Feb. 3-5

Admission: $15

Phone: 751-7510

Website: cyttucson.org


“Charlie Brown” cast includes Ben Busarow as Snoopy and, back row from eft, Debroah Christenson (Lucy), Ben Witham (Linus), Nathanial Ullmann (Charlie Brown), Alden Lester (Schroder), Lauryn Wallentin (Sally)
Photo by Darin Wallentine

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