HYT brings 'You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown' to life for local audiences
Heights Youth Theatre (HYT) presents “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown” at Monticello Middle School in Cleveland Heights. The run of six shows begins on Friday, Oct. 16 and ends on Sunday, Oct. 25.
Directed by Eugene Sumlin, with music direction by Stacy Bolton, “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown” is derived from the 1967 musical comedy of the same name and is based on the characters created by cartoonist Charles M. Schulz in his comic strip Peanuts.
In this production, the young actors dance, sing, and bring this classic American cartoon strip to life. The stage is designed like a big cartoon strip with fast action from scene to scene. The revival score features several familiar songs, such as "Happiness," “My Blanket and Me” and “The Baseball Game.” The musical also includes Snoopy’s famous “Suppertime” dream sequence, backed up by the show’s ensemble doubling as a gospel children’s choir.
This production marks Sumlin’s directing debut at HYT. Sumlin studied at Ashland University and performed as a member of the resident acting company at the Barter Theatre in Virginia. He also served as the education associate at Cleveland Public Theatre, where he taught and helped direct its education programs.
For the past eight years, he has been the choreographer for Beachwood Community Theater and its summer theater camp. He also served as the director and advisor of the Drama Club at Charles F. Brush High School for the past six years. He is the co-founder and the artistic director of Orchard Arts Project, a nonprofit performing arts organization, and serves as a teaching artist with Kulture Kids, working with young people throughout Greater Cleveland. He currently co-directs the Performing Arts Ministry at Calvary Church Of God In Christ in Cleveland. As an actor, Sumlin has performed at Cain Park, Lakeland Civic Theatre, The Fine Arts Association, Mercury Summerstock and Beachwood Community Theater.
“We’ve taken the original show and added a HYT twist,” said Sumlin. “This is the perfect show to kick-off the holiday season. We hope our audience feels the joy that Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang have given us through the years,” he added. “It’s an old show made new again . . . through our great cast of talented performers.”
HYT’s production of “Charlie Brown” features 43 players in first through eleventh grades, from Shaker Heights, South Euclid, Cleveland Heights, University Heights, Lyndhurst, Willoughby, Garfield Heights and Cleveland.
The lead cast includes John Cugel (Charlie Brown), Charlie Proctor (Linus Van Pelt), Sydney Fieseler (Lucy Van Pelt), Grace Wilkinson (Sally Brown), Avery Pope (Schroeder) and Emma Blemaster (Snoopy). The Peanuts gang includes Lilly Pinkerton (Peppermint Patty), Emma Sedlack (Frieda), Julia Beard (Violet), Ruby Blackman (Marcie), Jade Gladue (Patty), Patrick McAllister (Shermy) and Mylo Jones (Woodstock).
Performances will be presented at Monticello Middle School Auditorium, 3665 Monticello Blvd., on Friday, Oct. 16 and 23, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 17 and 24, at 2 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 18 and 25, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 general admission, and $9 for seniors and children under 6. The box office opens 45 minutes prior to each show. For more information, visit www.heightsyouththeatre.org. For group seating information, contact Ellen at 216-780-2235.
HYT participants range in age from 6 to 18, and come from throughout Greater Cleveland. HYT generally produces three to four full-length musicals each year. The program has been in existence for more than 60 years and serves close to 4,000 youth and families each season. For countless numbers of children, HYT is their first exposure to live theater. It has been a place where young people, from the inner ring suburbs of Greater Cleveland and beyond, enjoy a safe, nurturing environment and a cooperative learning experience as they work together to create a production.
Heights-based HYT has been named in Cleveland Magazine's "Best of Cleveland" issue (2006) for tops in children's theater. Several HYT youths have gone on to study musical theater at major colleges and universities, such as Baldwin Wallace, Boston University, Carnegie Mellon, NYU Tisch School, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Ithaca College. Some have attended summer programs at Interlochen Arts Academy, Fairmount Performing Arts Camp, Stage Door Manor, Carnegie Mellon and Northwestern, and others have performed in Broadway shows, such as “Hair,” “Newsies,” “Rent,” “Mama Mia,” “Wicked,” “Spring Awakening” and the “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
Les Proctor is a small business consultant whose kids are performing in HYT's production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."