CINCINNATI — We grew up with the “Peanuts” gang on the pages of a comic strip and as cartoon characters, but Nick Cearley had the wild idea of bringing the “Peanuts” to life with a new kind of musical twist — reviving a Broadway classic in the process.
“I thought about the Peanuts being a band,” the Fairfield High School graduate said.
And now his dream, more than a decade in the making, is a reality.
Cearley and Lauren Molina are the co-conceivers of a new production of the 1967 musical, “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” playing now at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
Cearley plays the character Linus, and Molina plays Lucy.
The playhouse liked the idea.
“As an actor, you're sort of at the lowest end of the totem pole where you don't think that some kind of idea that you had is going to come to fruition,” Molina said. “So this really — a dream come true for us.”
Cearley and Molina didn’t just revive a classic — they turned it on its head. In the show, the “Peanuts” characters really are in a band and the actors play the instruments themselves.
“We had to get comfortable with learning some of these chords and learning some of these instruments,” Cearley said.
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park won a Tony Award in 2006 for its revival of “Company,” another musical in which the actors play their own instruments.
“That was one of the things I loved about getting to do it here,” Cearley said, “is their track record of actor-musician pieces.”
“You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” is a homecoming for Cearley.
“One of the first shows I ever saw was here at the playhouse. 'The Wizard of Oz' in 1990,” he said. “My mom used to have season tickets and we sat up there. So I feel like getting to come home and doing this show on this stage and looking at where I used to sit is like, I'm living my dreams.”
Cearley was named The Rising Young Artist in 1998 by Hamilton’s Fitton Center where he grew up performing. He and Molina will be returning to the Fitton Center later this month to perform as The Skivvies — the “undie”-rock comedy duo that performs covers and originals — in their underwear.
“People are like, ‘Oh you perform in your underwear?’ But it's not a burlesque, dirty, raunchy show,” Molina said. “It feels like sort of a pajama party, like those are our costumes and after the first five minutes you forget we're in our underwear.”
Why do The Skivvies perform in their underwear?
As Cearley explains, “you wouldn’t have clicked” if they didn't.
The Skivvies return to the Fitton Center on May 20 as part of the center’s 25th anniversary season. Click here to purchase tickets.
“You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” is onstage at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park until May 18. Click here for show times and to purchase tickets.