'Charlie Brown' musical switches between adult, youth cast

The Stepping Stone Players is known for producing large musicals such as “Oliver,” “The Music Man” and “The Wizard of Oz.” This year, the local community theater troupe is doing a smaller production, “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” but it’s taking a new approach — two casts.

The musical’s three-weekend schedule, which started Friday night, alternates between a youth cast and an adult cast.

PHOTOS: "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown"

Cathy Gilbert, who directs both casts, said having two casts helps achieve one of the theater group’s main goals — mentorship.

While the youth cast is often learning tips from the older cast member, it sometimes goes in reverse with the younger actors teaching the more mature thespians a thing or two, Gilbert said.

Both casts learned the songs, dancing and blocking together, but then they were separated.

“[So they’re] not too influenced by their counterpart’s performance; they can create their own performance,” Gilbert said.

However, when they would have dance clean-up rehearsals, Gilbert sometimes saw the performers checking in with their counterparts if they had questions about certain moves.

“They had a buddy system,” she said.

Three of the cast members are related. Tim Byers, 15, plays Snoopy in the youth cast and his older brother, Jordan, 29, plays the same role in the adult cast.

In the youth cast, their sister, MacKenzie, plays Sally, 18, who performs the solo, “My New Philosophy,” a song that was added when the musical was revived in 1999 and Kristen Chenoweth won a Tony Award for the role.

The three siblings come from a musical family. Their dad, Matt, teaches music at Temple City High School and serves as musical director for the productions there.

Tim Byers said his interpretation of Snoopy is more “cheeky” than his brother’s. He throws in bits behind other performers’ backs such as sticking his tongue out or giving them a thumbs down.

He’s also enjoyed getting the chance to improvise, but he makes sure not to pull focus from the main action occurring onstage.

This is Jordan Byers’ fourth production with Stepping Stone Players. Last summer, he jumped into the role of Bill Sykes in “Oliver” with about 24 hours’ notice.

He said he brings lots of high energy when portraying Snoopy, maybe too high even.

“I got a note from the director saying, ‘You can pull it down a little,’” he said. “That’s good.”

When tackling the role of the famous Beagle, he keeps a famous comic actor in mind.

“I think of Jim Carrey sometimes,” he said. “That type of comic energy and delivery.”

Billy McGavin plays Schroeder in both casts. When the actor originally cast to play the role in the adult cast couldn’t do the show, McGavin was asked to play the pint-size pianist in both casts, which required attending a lot of rehearsals.

On Thursday, both casts ran through the show, with McGavin doing double duty.

“I was there from 4:30 to 10:30 p.m.,” he said, adding that an energy drink beforehand helped him make it through the exhaustive day.

He also sings a solo that was added to the revival, “Beethoven Day,” for which he had to expand his vocal range.

“Schroeder is a really high tenor,” said McGavin, who usually sings baritone.

Performances of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” are presented in the theater at Hoover High School, 651 Glenwood Road in Glendale.

For more information about the show, call (818) 539-6777 or visit steppingstoneplayers.com.

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