Fans of musical theatre around Franciscan University’s campus were not disappointed when they heard the announcement of this semester’s show title: “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
Franciscan Musical Theatre Troupe (FUMTT) has another story to tell, and the curtains are almost ready to rise on this newest drama. Yet the process to get there has been the best part, according to the cast and director.
Though the original Broadway production only employed six actors, Directors junior Patrick O’Brien and senior Hannah Taraschke took on a cast of 19, 13 of whom are ensemble. Every person in the show has a character that is a Peanuts character.
“My favorite thing about this is that there’s no favoritism,” said O’Brien. He went on to explain that only about four members of the cast have been with the club before, and the lead has never been in a musical or even acted before.
Said O’Brien, “I love that we get people from all over, and it’s not a typical group of theatre kids.”
O’Brien emphasized the cast dynamic as something that will lead to success for the show. “They all love each other,” he said.
Hope Mercugliano, who plays Freida, said, “The cast dynamic is like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my years of theater. Having a small cast allows us to really be like a family, a crazy, hilarious family, where everyone is so valued and necessary to the show.”
O’Brien cited this aspect of the show as essential because “it’s all about childlike joy, family and community. Not only do these characters have it but this cast has it,” he said.
A few changes have been made within FUMTT this semester. O’ Brien is co-directing with Taraschke, who he said “knows this show inside and out.” He attributed the vision of the show to her familiarity with it and her ideas.
The other change is the absence of a pit orchestra, which O’Brien attributed to the large number of instruments needed and a lack of similar schedules to coordinate. Instead, FUMTT has obtained soundtracks of the original cast recordings without vocals, including all the instrumental scores, so it will still give the sound of a present orchestra.
Another interesting aspect of this show is the amount of actors within the cast who have limited acting experience. “It’s an experience to teach people about theatre,” said O’Brien, who explained that both he and Taraschke have been involved in theatre for most of their lives. “It’s interesting to take a step back. … It’s enjoyable to watch them discover the power of musical theatre,” he said.
Regarding the message of the show, O’Brien had only one theme to point out. “It’s all about the kids,” he said, adding that this simplicity affected his set, which will employ many props but simple set pieces.
“(It’s about) the beauty of innocence and childlike joy … the things that kids feel,” said O’Brien. “People forget that kids go through these things too.”
Tom Glemkowski, who plays Schroeder, had similar thoughts. “The show explains a deep, beautiful story about the struggles of trying to find yourself in the world,” he said.
Junior Erica Terranova, who plays Lucy, said: “We are all looking for some sort of purpose or affirmation. We all want to be loved and accepted and admired for who we are. The show exhibits this and opens the eyes of the audience to look beyond the actions of others and into their motivations and intentions.”
O’Brien summed it up when he said: “It’s a challenge for us to be kinder.”
Tickets for the three performances can still be purchased at ticketsource.us/fumtt, and O’Brien encouraged anyone to keep checking back even if the show sells out.
“No one will leave this show without a smile on their face,” said Mercugliano, “because not only is the show hilarious but the cast loves it and that love comes through in the acting.”