Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts characters have become almost as synonymous with Christmas as Rudolph and Frosty. Watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is a staple during the holiday season, but this weekend the classic tale comes to the stage at SoLuna Studio in Hauppauge.
“It’s a Christmas tradition that transcends generations,” says director and studio co-owner Karen Braun, who puts on musicals every season. “We approach it in a playful way. The cast brings a lot of fun, upbeat energy to the production.”
FOURTH TIME’S A CHARM
This production is unique in that it has been put on in Hauppauge for the past four years with relatively the same cast.
“This is my first group of teenagers that I started with. I’ve seen them grow up together,” Braun says. “I couldn’t imagine doing it with a different group.”
What’s even more remarkable is that the actors, who range in age from 15 to 20, pull the show together with one three-hour rehearsal.
“The kids get their scripts in advance, and the lines are simple because the show is geared toward children,” says Megan Rabba, studio co-owner. “They come in knowing it cold. It’s just a matter of refreshing their memory.”
Much like the Peanuts gang, the SoLuna cast is a tightknit crew that has worked and played together over the years.
“We are basically a family of friends who love spending time together,” says Justin Autz, 16, of East Northport, who has played Charlie Brown since the first year. “Our friendship helps bring our characters to life.”
Throughout the show, the cast gets interactive with the crowd by engaging them to sing and dance along.
“It’s a small, cozy theater, so we can see everyone’s reactions,” says Tyler Mooney, 17, of Miller Place, who’s been portraying the piano-playing Schroeder since 2012. “The parents enjoy it as much as their kids because they remember it from when they were young.”
Although the cast is filled with teenagers, they say they can identify with the characters, who have been around for 65 years.
“The Peanuts gang has always been a staple in our lives in the comics, TV specials, and now there’s a movie,” says Alyssa Paciullo, 17, of Levittown, who’s playing Lucy for the second time. “I always read the comic strip every Sunday. I flip right to Peanuts.”
The message of the play, which features the characters singing carols in unison, focuses on Charlie Brown finding the true meaning of Christmas.
“Christmas is about knowing what you have and not what you want to get,” says Dan George, 14, of Hauppauge, who plays Linus. “Charlie Brown learns to appreciate his friends.”
This is the final production of this cast, most of whom are moving on to college next year.
“The last show will be very emotional. Most of these kids have been here since we opened our doors,” says Rabba. “They have a really special bond together.”