Mary Kate Burke Director of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at the Mile Square Theatre in Hoboken knows the importance of theatrical entertainment – in any time. Her exuberance for theater and this production comes out within seconds of saying hello.
Growing up in Connecticut, she knew from a young age that it was a “delightful thing to get a bunch of strangers in a room and make them laugh.” One of her first shows as an audience member was a local production of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” which was put on by a family friend and some undergraduates. “The communal feeling of pulling a great group of talented people working towards a common goal and bringing joy,” resonated with Burke.
She has a varied resume which includes being Director of Programming for the New York Musical Theater Festival and directing productions across the country. But working on an established “iconic” show, like “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” is a vastly “different journey and investment from musical development. The show is well crafted and the feeling is this thing worked and let’s do it.”
Based on the beloved comic strip “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz, the comic musical includes the whole gang: bossy Lucy is hopelessly in love with piano prodigy Schroeder who doesn't give her the time of day, perfectionist Sally is still mocking blanket-toting Linus, Snoopy is in the doghouse, and the "blockhead" himself, Charlie Brown, is in rare form. Brief vignettes span the months from Valentine's Day to Beethoven Day. See Snoopy celebrate dinner. Experience Sally’s bold new philosophy and feel the whole cast’s happiness in this fun show.
Burke’s approach to the material is to utilize the intimacy of the Mile Square Theatre, letting the vignettes in the script remain fresh and feel part of an overall arc. She feels the script by Clark Gesner with additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and dialogue by Michael Mayer plays well today. “It is forward thinking given our own sound bite culture.”
Casting-wise, Burke was looking for spirit and was open to what each actor brought. She was also looking to collaborate with musical director Terri Gorgone and Artistic Director Chris O'Connor. Gorgone will be on stage surrounded by cartoon bushes, interacting with Snoopy (“when he wants to bite someone, he looks to her”, and playing the keyboard. “The space is well suited, intimate, and we didn’t want the actors to push to reach the back row. The show should be like a snow globe, a magical world with characters.”
Burke wants audiences to feel the purity and naiveté of childhood while also having a joyful experience that is a nice balance to whatever is happening in the real world. She leans towards material that has substance and comedy with bite. Her enthusiasm carries through and audiences are sure to “remember the feeling” of her production as well as the cast and Gorgone’s love for the material at Mile Stage Theatre.
“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” runs February 3 through February 26. Fridays @ 7pm, Saturdays @ 2pm and 6pm, and Sundays @ 11am and 3pm. Tickets available at www.milesquaretheatre.org, or by calling 201-683-7014. Tickets are $30 • $15 students and seniors.
PHOTO (Left to right) Brandon Santoro, Mikey LoBalsamo, Clare Rea, Aiesha Dukes, Chris Goodrich, and Marcus Bennet. Photo by Craig Wallace Dale