“Live theater–Oh, how we missed it!” was how Director Butera greeted viewers to the March showing of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Port Jefferson High School’s 2021-22 drama production.
The play itself was featured twice on Broadway, a whimsical depiction of the original comics illustrated by Charles Schultz. Port Jefferson’s rendition of the plot included additional original dialogue, music, and lyrics. High school band director Christine Creighton led live music from the pit, a wide variety of instruments and technology that provided music and sound effects of a most professional quality. The instruments that made up the pit included a bass, viola, violin, keyboard, clarinet, alto saxophone, flute, malletkat (a type of electronic percussion), and a full drum set. The play’s soundtrack was a mix of both classical music, including that of Beethoven and William Tell Overture; and modern music, including that of Queen and Michael Jackson, to which several characters engaged in a minutes-long dance scene.
The music of the play consisted not only of background music or the actors’ singing, but also times when the two worked together to create unique experiences not usually seen in theater. One notable scene began with Schroeder playing Beethoven on the piano, with Lucy singing her dialogue to Schroeder in the tune of the melody. The music gradually incorporated all the characters into a song to the tune of Beethoven’s 5th symphony, which was sung by the actors on stage and the players in the pit.
On the topic of the actors, each provided a magnificent delivery of their character, keeping the audience filled with an almost constant roar of laughter and applause that died down only to hear more lines. The actors often had to perform completely alone, the characters simply talking to themselves or some character offstage, as they often did in the original comic strips. I cannot overstate how impressive this feat was to me, as should I attempt to replicate it, the audience would still laugh, but for very different reasons.
The plot of the play was quite unique, as the nature of the comic strips it was based on prohibited it from following a merely linear plot. Rather, it was broken into short scenes that delivered the most entertaining segments of plot, and kept the story-line fresh by means of having the next occurrences always be unexpected.
To quote director Butera, “They did a great job, it was so much fun to see it all come together. Hearing the full band with the cast is incredible.” He also praised the stage crew who “did such a good job coordinating with lights and the sets.” Truly, the sets were magnificently composed of beautiful images of all the characters. I cannot wait, and I'm quite sure many others cannot either, to see the same actors interact in ornamental sets designed and lit by the same crew, in new and stunning plays for several more years to come.