The new Millbrook Playhouse Youth Ensemble will present its inaugural production of the classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” at the Sloan Fine Arts Building on the Lock Haven University campus.
This audition-based program is designed to inspire, nurture and support young performers who have shown a dedication to the theater. The young artists’ ensemble is derived from Millbrook Playhouse’s 2015 season and summer educational programs, with performers who range in age from 7-16.
Charlie Brown and his gang come to life in this faithful stage adaptation where the Peanuts grapple with the true meaning of Christmas. When Charlie Brown complains about the overwhelming commercialism he sees among everyone during the Christmas season, Lucy suggests that he become the director of the school Christmas pageant. Charlie Brown accepts, but it proves to be a frustrating task. When an attempt to restore the holiday spirit with a forlorn little Christmas fir tree fails, he needs Linus’ help to learn what Christmas is all about.
This special production will be co-directed by Millbrook’s Artistic Director David E. Leidholdt and Artistic Associate Matt Spencer, who will also serve as the choreographer.
Charlie Brown is played by 13-year-old Colby Stoner of Mill Hall. He was introduced to acting by a friend, Katelyn Boyd, who talked him into signing up for summer camp at Millbrook Playhouse.
“Poor Charlie Brown — nothing seems to work out for him,” Stoner said. “Charlie Brown always means well, but the other kids just don’t appreciate what he tries to do. So he spends a lot of his time feeling pretty bad about himself.”
The role of Lucy is played by 13-year-old Olivia Hanna, an eighth grader at Lock Haven Catholic School. Hanna has been acting since she was 6 years old, appearing in 15 Millbrook Playhouse productions.
“I mostly have my cousin, Erin Long, who is also a Millbrook alumnus, to thank for introducing me to acting, singing, and just being onstage, along with being introduced to Millbrook’s summer kids’ camps at a young age,” she said. “Millbrook has given me amazing experiences in shows I will never forget, and bonds with actors that to me, are priceless.”
Lucy is an interesting character to say the least — she’s bossy, uppity, a bit of a know-it-all, and at times, just plain cruel. But she also often provides comedic relief.
“We all know that she doesn’t want Linus to get rid of that stupid blanket just for the sake of her reputation, but because she truly loves him,” Hanna said. “And quite honestly, her psychiatric skills are top notch, because she knew all along that it was ‘pantophobia.’ ”
The cast also features Madi Meeker as Snoopy, Garrett Cunningham as Linus, Elizabeth Shaffer as Schroeder, Aimee Hunsinger as Sally and many more.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is the first production by the Millbrook Playhouse Youth Ensemble, and Stoner hopes that the audience enjoys the show and realizes that though they may only be kids, they are serious about entertaining them and are capable of a quality performance that is worth supporting.
“We have worked very hard and have had so much fun recreating the cartoon on stage,” he said. “I think that fans of Peanuts will love seeing their favorite cartoon character come to life on stage, and that they will be humming the ‘Snoopy Song’ for days.”
IF YOU GO
- What: Millbrook Playhouse Youth Ensemble’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
- When: 7 p.m. Dec. 11-12
- Where: Sloan Fine Arts Building, Lock Haven University campus
- Info: www.millbrookplayhouse .org