From the Director's Chair: A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS

Learn from First Stage Artistic Director Jeff Frank on what makes A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS the perfect holiday celebration for the entire family.

Jeff Frank and Charlie Brown, title character of many a Peanuts gang television special, have one thing in common – they are both directors of a Christmas play. We sat down with Jeff before today’s rehearsal of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS to get the inside scoop of what First Stage audiences will look forward to this holiday season.

We’ve all seen it on TV countless times. What are some little-known facts about the original television special from which A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS is based?
At his core, cartoonist Charles “Sparky” Schulz was a genius and a consummate storyteller – that is why his work is so endearing and has been so enduring. Despite network misgivings about the special when it was first set to air in 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas turned out to be the highest rated Christmas special in history. So, what the network thought would be a one-time special (that they aired only because they had already paid for it) has become an iconic part of the holiday season for countless children and families.

It is interesting to note that Schulz and the television special’s director were both adamant that actual children should give voice to the beloved characters. They couldn’t fathom adults speaking the words and felt that young people would give the piece more humanity and truth. As a professional theater for families that espouses the same philosophy with our age-appropriate casting, we couldn't agree more – and we are thrilled to bring Sparky’s classic Christmas tale to theatrical life.

What do you want audiences to look forward to in A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS?
We are blessed to have the incomparable Jack Forbes Wilson at the piano to bring Vince Guaraldi's magical score to life. The music is the heartbeat of the show. First Stage veteran Matt Daniels reprises his role as Snoopy. Matt is an amazingly adept physical performer, and it has been a blast to sort out Snoopy's comic antics with him. Can't wait for audiences to join the fun.

But at the center of it all, there is Charlie Brown, an Everyman struggling to comprehend what Christmas is really all about. Buried under the trappings of the commercial holiday season, Charlie has to dig deep to rediscover the true spirit of Christmas. But with a little help from his friends, he does – and the audience gets to share in that joy.

A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS was made its First Stage premiere in 2015 to record-setting audiences. How will this year’s production be different?
Anytime we revisit a show, we try to find ways to make the story clearer, more complete, so that is our goal this time around – from all the design aspects to each acting moment on stage. I can't give you too many specifics at this point, but I can promise the team is working extremely hard to make the show as wonderful as possible.

How does this classic from the 1960s resonate today, more than 50 years after the original television special?
Well, the holiday season certainly hasn't gotten less commercial. So, the message of the show is needed even more today than ever before. I urge people to take some time as a family. Stop for a moment. Come together to see this heartwarming production and collectively reflect on the season and your family and the love you have for each other. I promise you'll leave with a bit more joy in your heart - then go out and spread that joy, the world needs it.

Find the joy of the holidays with your family at A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater November 24 – December 31. Find details and tickets at

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.