Area kids try cabaret-style presentation of ‘Charlie Brown’
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
BASALT ” One might think that staging a theater production with just six characters, as opposed a cast of dozens, would be a relative walk in the park. But when those six characters are played by nine teenagers, and the production is a cartoon-turned-cabaret act, all bets are off.
“It’s been a different experience,” admits Jayne Gottlieb, the founder of and force behind Jayne Gottlieb Production. “Typically I have anywhere from 50 to 80 kids with a large venue, costumes, staging … the whole deal. But what we’re doing with ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’ is something else all together.”
What Gottlieb is doing is more than just something different for the local children’s theater troupe she founded in 2005. By all accounts, it’s something new to the Roaring Fork Valley.
With ‘Charlie Brown,’ Gottlieb is presenting a one-hour show of cabaret-style vignettes in a dinner-theater setting. The show opened Thursday night at Steve’s Guitars; it continues through the weekend with an apres-ski show at the Limelight Lodge in Aspen, a lunch performance at the Riverside Grill in Basalt, a dinner show at Bistro Basalt and then a final production at the Basalt Middle School.
“With the economy being what it is, I was looking for a different way of presenting children’s theater. And I think this will also help these local businesses,” says Gottlieb, whose company’s past productions have been staged in Basalt and at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen.
Plus, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” ” with familiar song-and-dance numbers like “Happiness” and “Snoopy Supper Time,” and featuring classic characters like Linus, Lucy and the gang ” was a perfect play for these smaller, more casual venues.
“Really, the show just lends itself to a very comical, casual type of production,” she explains. “The kids say a line, leave the stage, and there is minute for the audience to laugh.”
But even more of a reality in the show’s success is Gottlieb’s collaborator, longtime local actor David Ledingham, whom she credits with opening the kids eyes to a whole other side of acting.
“I gotta say I think I can be a rock and solid director and producer, but to bring in a different personality to inspire the kids, that’s just amazing,” says Gottlieb, whose business partner Adam Bartley recent left the organization to pursue a career in Los Angeles, leaving her in search of new collaborations.
“I’m a collaborator at heart, and now, working with different people like David, makes me realize how much better things are with two brains, two eyes, two hearts,” she says.
Still, the biggest collaboration Gottlieb sees in children’s theater is with the children themselves.
Comprising nine kids ages 13-17 ” some of Gottlieb’s shining starts, kids that have worked with the company since its inception ” the actors in “Charlie Brown” have worked hard to make this unusual concept come to fruition.
“This has been a focused, detailed rehearsal process,” says Gottlieb. “Vocally, musically, acting-wise, this has been a challenge. These kids don’t have a big chorus and costumes to create the ‘wow factor,’ they have to step up and do it themselves.”
And they have, according to Gottlieb, making sure to include each cast member ” Ben Belinski, Luke Seamans, Bella Moblilian, Samantha Crippen, Jayne Muir, Rebecca Maniscalchi, AJ Palacio, Zoe Levine and Tara Speers ” in her praise for the production’s success.
“And the other cool thing for these kids, is that with so many different venues and stages, they are going to adapt,” she says. “And so will the audiences.”
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