Talents shine as high school students bring classic Broadway musical to life

Cast and crew at Mainstage Center for the Arts carve out time to perfect their adaptation of a Charlie Brown musical


The Sun

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With their adaptation of the 1999 Broadway musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” showing next week, the cast and crew at Mainstage Center for the Arts could not be more excited to see the audience’s reaction to the hard work and effort they put into making the play as perfect as it can be.

“I’m excited to see how the audience reacts to it,” said Blackwood resident and director Stephanie Filippo. “It’s a fun show and has a great meaning to it. I think it’s what we need right now.”

Most of the kids in the musical were drawn to Mainstage through their brothers and sisters having productions at the company and growing in love with show business at a young age.

“I got into doing musicals when I was pretty young,” said Alison Maselek of Washington Township, who is in the ensemble. “My sister used to do them with her sixth-grade play, and then she got a flier for Mainstage and she started doing them, so I decided to do them with her. I just fell in love with it.”

Brielle Hina of Washington Township practicing her part as Snoopy on Sept. 30 (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

For Brielle Hina of Washington Township, who plays Charlie Brown’s dog Snoopy, performing in musicals is a favorite pastime of hers, as she’s heavily involved in shows at Washington Township High School. She’s the vice president of the school’s chorus and is in the drama club.

“I’m always a part of Mainstage. I’m in all of their shows, so when I heard they’re doing ‘Charlie Brown’ I had to audition,” said Hina.

While she loves acting and doing musical theaters, Hina said she wishes to continue doing community theater pieces than Broadway.

Paul VI High School students Nadya Solomento, of Sicklerville, and Nicole Duffy, of Williamstown, said Broadway is a definite goal for them in their careers.

“I’d love to star in ‘Newsies,’” said Solomento. “If I had to pick a character to play, I’d be Crutchy.”

“Obviously it would take a lot of time to work up to that, because not everybody gets their big break like that,” said Duffy. “But I think eventually seeing my name on Broadway is going to be really rewarding.”

(Left to right) John Koza of Mantua, Charlie Brown; Christian DeCola of Maple Shade, Linus; and Nicole Duffy of Williamstown, Lucy on Sept. 30 (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

Duffy also spoke on her role as Lucy van Pelt, who is regarded in many of the Charlie Brown and Peanuts cartoons as being the “know-it-all.” In Mainstage’s adaptation of the Broadway hit, Duffy is able to shine through her part and let her (and Lucy’s) voice be heard.

“I think it’s really fun playing her because Lucy thinks she knows everything, and sometimes she doesn’t,” said Duffy “But in her own mind, she’s always right and that just keeps her moving along.”

Filippo said she’s worked with many of the students since they were in fourth and fifth grades, and is in awe at their overall improvement in their parts over the years.

“It has been one of my favorite parts of working here and watching them grow throughout the years,” said Filippo. “Being able to work on a smaller show with this group of people has been a really great opportunity.”

The kids, Filippo added, put in roughly 12 hours of rehearsals a week since late August, excluding the at-home work they have to do to memorize their parts, on top of doing activities at their respective high schools.

John Koza, of Mantua, rehearsing his part of Charlie Brown on Sept. 30 (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

“My time is all kinds of clumped up right now and I really don’t have any free time,” joked John Koza, of Mantua, who plays the leading role of Charlie Brown. “This is my free time because it’s so much fun. I love it.”

Being the face of a musical featuring a character he’s loved for a long time has made Koza even more excited for the outcome of the play and initially made him want to audition for the part of Charlie Brown.

“I was really excited because I watched ‘Charlie Brown’ when I was little with my brother when it was a cartoon still and it’s just amazing,” said Koza.

Before getting into Broadway, Koza said he’d like to work on his singing to become a better singer, which he’s currently doing with vocal lessons.

The musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” has showtimes at Dennis Flyer Theatre at Camden County College Oct. 12–14. Tickets can be purchased online starting at $13 for senior citizens and students, and $16 for adults. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.Mainstage.org.

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