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Reno Little Theater Celebrates 80 Seasons With A Musical

Reno Little Theater

Reno Little Theater is in the middle of its 80th season. In honor of its big birthday as well as celebrating 20 years of Artown, RLT will perform its first musical in over a decade. Reno Public Radio’s Esther Ciammachilli stopped by one of RLT’s rehearsals to learn more about the upcoming production and why musicals were on hold for so long.  

Dressed in street clothes just minutes before a full run-through, the cast of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is rehearsing the opening number.

The show opens tonight at Reno Little Theater and runs through July. It features the Peanuts gang in a song and dance version of the comic strip created by Charles Schultz. Melissa Taylor is the company’s managing director. She says the idea for this musical production was partially influenced by theater goers.

“When are you going to do something for kids and when are you going to do musicals? And so I actually performed in this show years ago and thought well that’ll do both of those things at once.”

Credit Esther Ciammachilli
A raw version of Snoopy's iconic dog house.

The majority of RLT’s productions have targeted an adult audience and Taylor says it was time to change that. And since Artown highlights a lot of events specifically for families, this show makes a good fit for the month-long festival. It doesn’t get much more family-friendly than Peanuts.

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is something that I think resonates with everybody from ages five to 105.” 

Still, ten years is a long time for an institution like RLT to go without producing a musical, but Taylor says it’s because they’re expensive.

If a company wants to produce a play, they must buy the rights to perform it. For musicals, the company must also purchase the music rights, and this is where it gets costly. RLT paid about 5000 dollars to produce Charlie Brown. That’s compared to roughly a thousand dollars to produce a standard play. And, Taylor says, the process can sometimes be even more complex.

“Different shows are from different companies, so different companies have different processes for it. Sometimes they have these really weird mathematical equations, where it’s like how many seats times your price times a percentage.” 

Location has also been a problem. Musicals require a lot of extra resources including space for things like choreography. For several years, RLT was somewhat homeless with no consistent playhouse. This made even small productions difficult to manage. But, in 2012, RLT opened a new theater in MidTown. And, Taylor says, now that they have a permanent home and the right funding in place, musicals are once again part of their repertoire. And just in time for its 80th season.

Credit Esther Ciammachilli
From left to right: Danny Sturtevant plays Linus, Adam Teachout is Charlie Brown and Amy Gianos plays Lucy in Reno Little Theater's first musical in more than ten years.

“No pressure at all…No, just kidding” 

That’s Chad Sweet, the show’s director expressing a little nervous excitement about leading this long-awaited production. This is also Sweet’s directorial debut with RLT.

He says even though the show is G rated, adults will appreciate it too, if they’re at all familiar with the comic strip. And, he says, they should recognize some of the major scenes. Like when the gang teams up to play that great American pastime, baseball.

Credit Esther Ciammachilli
A few members of the Peanuts Gang. Back row: Amy Gianos and Adam Teachout. Front: Tara Rispin, who plays Sally and Danny Sturtevant.

That’s Adam Teachout, who plays Charlie Brown. He says there’s more to his character than what the world sees on the surface.

“He’s a really misunderstood guy and it’s been kind of a challenge trying to really capture who he is. I feel like I can relate to him in some ways, he’s a really simple guy. We both have balding issues.”

Chad Sweet, says everyone can relate to these loveable characters

“We all have a Charlie Brown within us that’s not really sure of what we’re doing, or we have those days where everything seems to be going wrong. All of us have a Lucy in us where we are demanding and we are authoritative and we are pushy. 

For Melissa Taylor, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown teaches us that happiness can be found in the smallest places, even the Biggest Little City in the World. And she says, this show will help Reno Little Theater end its 80th season on high note.

Esther Ciammachilli is a former part-time broadcaster at KUNR Public Radio.
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