Although the weather outside has been frightful, rehearsals for our spring musical, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, have been heating up. Twenty-five middle school musical theater scholars from SA Harlem North West and SA Harlem North Central have been busy preparing for opening night Friday, March 20.
Since our musical was cast back in November, our 25 actors and singers have memorized the complex harmonies of the score, learned intricate choreography that incorporates jazz and modern dance, and practiced the actions of the diverse characters they’re playing on stage. But along the way, our scholars have faced challenges and learned valuable lessons about teamwork and perseverance.
Charlie Brown is a musical comedy based on the characters from the comic strip “Peanuts.” The main character, Charlie Brown, is the underdog among his group of kids, who tries really hard but just can’t get it right and can’t seem to find happiness. Our scholars love the story because they can relate to the characters and their situations.
To prepare the cast for the show, Ms. Jones, the music teacher, and I have given each scholar voice and acting lessons since the start of the year. The rehearsals have been grueling but also rewarding, and our scholars have truly learned that practice makes better. “I love seeing everything come together and celebrating when we finish learning a song or a dance. It feels good when we get things right!” says Zaida, a fifth-grader.
However, we don’t always get things right, and snow, illness, and absences have compounded our troubles. At times, we all wanted to cry out “GOOD GRIEF!” – just like Charlie Brown. Twice a week, our musical scholars have trekked between the two schools, rehearsed past sunset, and gone home profoundly exhausted. These challenges are part of developing character – and our scholars are pushing themselves as hard as they can to produce an amazing show.
At the beginning, some scholars were not happy with their assigned roles. When Kaliyah, a fifth-grader, was cast as Woodstock, Snoopy the Dog’s yellow-feathered bird sidekick, for example, she thought Woodstock was an insignificant character. However, when Kaliyah discovered that Woodstock would not only dance, but would have an entire rap, she realized that everyone in the show is important, whether the character has one line or 100 lines.
We have also seen students rise to the challenge of playing a difficult role. Dillon, a fourth-grader, plays Schroeder, a Beethoven-obsessed piano player. At every rehearsal, Dillon pushed himself to learn the difficult words of his big number, “Beethoven Day,” until he mastered challenging lines for a fourth-grader, including the phrase “polyphonic jumble.” And then, when Dillon saw the toy piano that he, as Schroeder, would get to play, his face lit up. He could envision his hard work at rehearsal coming to fruition on the big stage with his beautiful new prop.
Besides igniting our scholars’ passion for acting and singing, the show has sparked interest in the technical elements of theater. Mohamed, a fifth-grader, was recently brought on as part of the backstage crew that will help us with props, lighting, and sound. “I want to be a technician when I grow up, and I know that working on a stage crew will help set me up for the career I want,” he said. We also recruited ushers who will take ownership of the front of the house, hand out programs, and show audience members to their seats.
The finale, a song called “Happiness,” sends our scholars an important message: Anything is possible with the right attitude, and anyone can find happiness in something they love. Our rehearsals have brought happiness to our scholars, and we hope we can bring that happiness to you on Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21 at 7pm in the SA Harlem North Central auditorium. To find out more information about the show, contact the school.