Jen Masterson yells, though not angrily, “OK, again, let’s do that part again. Let’s clean it up,” at her Zachary High School students rehearsing Oct. 30 for the upcoming musical, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
Based on the comic strip “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz, two casts have taken on the “Charlie Brown” roles, director Masterson said.
Each cast gets one evening performance and three morning matinee performances.
The cast that includes Reid Saari as Charlie Brown, Jordyn Bernardi as Lucy van Pelt, Lauren Smith as Sally Brown, John Carl Begley as Linus van Pelt and Jake Thomas as Schroeder was rehearsing Thursday.
Many of the young actors have been performing in Masterson’s Theater II and Play Production I and II classes since freshman year.
Take for instance, Jamarcus Smith, 17, and Tony Collins, 18, two senior standouts.
Smith plays Schroeder in one cast and is the show’s music director as a crew member.
Credits for Smith as both actor and singer include “Aladdin Jr.” and “The Wizard of Oz” among many others, Smith said.
Smith has earned All-District and State Honor Choir honors the past four years, Masterson said.
Though he didn’t attend, the four-year theater student is proud of the fact he was invited to sing at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
“I love being able to perform with people I’ve grown up with,” Smith said about his high school theater experience. “Sharing the lights and camera ... everything coming together just before the curtain raises. I love it.”
Smith intends to major in music and minor in business at LSU.
Collins, who is the show’s choreographer, has studied four years of theater under Masterson. His show credits include productions at Zachary High and in Baton Rouge.
“My favorite thing about the theater is being with all the characters offstage. Onstage I love hearing the orchestra tune up just before a show. That’s my favorite moment,” Collins said.
Like Smith, Collins plans to attend LSU but intends to major in theater and minor in dance.
Collins attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy’s theater intensive program in New York over the summer.
He said it was an unforgettable experience.
Collins’ resumé boasts six Theater Baton Rouge productions. Additional credits as both cast and crew member will be added following “Charlie Brown,” “Almost, Maine” and “Hairspray.” All are ZHS productions. “Hairspray” is up next for the theater students, premiering in January, and “Almost, Maine” includes March performances.
“These guys are amazing. I have been lucky, this play (Charlie Brown) is the easiest I’ve worked on because I’ve had such talented kids working with me on stage and behind the scenes,” Masterson said.
Masterson is no stranger to the stage. For the past 20 years, her life has revolved around high school theater productions.
She taught two years at McKinley, four at Tara and one at Central High. The past 13 years have been at Zachary.
Both casts and crew members on the sets of “Charlie Brown” are talented students with loads of drama and musical experience, said Masterson.
Assisting Masterson in the current production is Jeremy Reynolds, Zachary’s visual and performing arts coordinator.
Bernardi portrays Lucy van Pelt, but has appeared in “The Little Mermaid” and is in her eighth year in theater — and she’s only a freshman. She also plays the piano and is a member of the ZHS swim team.
Alexis Albert is a three-year theater student in one of the casts. Albert rehearses her role as Sally Brown while maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average and participating in volleyball, horseback riding, drawing and photography.
Albert’s credits include appearances in “The Little Mermaid, Jr.,” “Check, Please” and “Will Date for Food,” according to playbillder.com.
Snoopy’s character is played by Miranda Albarez and Bailey Malveaux.
Albarez is a freshman with four years theater experience. She has appeared in the same Zachary productions as Albert and is an accomplished pianist as well, achieving superior ratings in all competitions.
Albarez is the high school’s twirler.
Masterson and her students choose shows to match their talents.
“I choose productions that will set them up for success,” Masterson said. Other variables in choosing the productions include audience appeal.
“We also pick children’s shows that will allow us to reach out to future drama students,” added Masterson. “Also, performing for younger children is a blast.”
She says other productions, such as last fall’s Shakespearean play, are considered curriculum shows.
The theater teacher said: “ ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’ is such a sweet show and will delight and surprise audiences.”
When asked about the scariest moment in her 20 years of theater, Masterson is quick to recall both year and play.
“It was opening day of Neil Simon’s ‘Rumors’ in 2009,” Masterson said. “It was a full-length show with a 10-member cast. One of the leads got sick and couldn’t perform, and we found out when she was absent from school that day. Another girl was excused from classes, went home, memorized the lines and performed that same evening. I will never forget Samantha Capone, she did an outstanding job.”
Masterson says this year, both “Charlie Brown” casts worked with younger students who attended a musical theater camp Nov. 1.
“What a fun day,” Masterson said. “These kids did an exceptional job, all of them, the camp participants and my students. I’m very proud of the way they handled this event ... professionals, all of them.”
Fourteen prekindergarten through fourth-grade students attended a four-hour workshop so that on Nov. 11 and 13 they can perform the song “Happiness” with the “Charlie Brown” casts in the last number of the evening performances, said Masterson.
In the meantime, casts and crews are hard at work dress rehearsing, which continues through Nov. 10, when “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” premieres to elementary school children in the Zachary school district.
Those performances are morning matinees and not for the community.
Evening performances of “Charlie Brown” will be Nov. 10 and Nov. 13 for parents, residents and guests.
Both shows begin at 7 p.m.
The play’s music, book and lyrics are by Clark Gesner, additional dialogue by Michael Mayer, and additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa.
The “Gesner” cast will perform Nov. 11, and the “Schulz” cast performs Nov. 13.