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School of the Arts

A Charlie Brown Christmas

CSU, Chico to Stage Family-Friendly Holiday Musical, A Charlie Brown Christmas

Charlie Brown looking at snow globe with the Peanuts gang inside. Bordered by Christmas lights

CSU, Chico’s School of the Arts presents a live action version of Charles Schulz’s holiday special A Charlie Brown Christmas. Performances are Thursday–Saturday, Nov. 29–Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday–Sunday, Dec. 1–2 at 2 p.m. in Harlen Adams Theatre. Tickets are available at the University Box Office or by calling 530-898-6333.

The musical follows the plot of the TV special. When Charlie Brown finds himself depressed because of the overwhelming materialism of the Christmas season, Lucy suggests he direct the Christmas play. After his best attempts to restore the proper holiday spirit are ignored and mocked by the other “Peanuts” characters, Charlie Brown needs Linus’ help to discover the true meaning of Christmas. The show is only 45 minutes long, followed by a short audience sing-along, making it a suitable length for children.

“It will be magical to get Adams (theatre) filled with families and relive the holiday classic,” said Matthew Teague Miller, director and Department of Music and Theatre faculty member.

Choosing a show based on the famous children’s show builds a bridge from film to theatre for families now able to attend a theatre production together.

“There’s something fun about holiday outings with the family,” Miller said.

And in this outing, enjoyment also stems from the ability of every family member to connect to the show and its characters. Miller describes cartoonist Schulz’s ability to create characters that are relatable, in particular Charlie Brown.

“We all want people to like us and to be part of the family. The undying hope that Lucy doesn’t pull the football away is universal,” Miller said. 

The cast of this holiday play was chosen based on who could tap into their inner child and embody the iconic Peanuts characters in a true and authentic way. Cast members include Casey Schneider, Sophia Gutierrez, Zoe Stamos, Oliver Loll, Sergio Diaz, Maria Bridgeford, Zac Marquette, Olivia Loupe, Marlene Bruce, Reina McGonigle, and Angel Del Cid, and understudies Mateo Diez and Nicole Stanley.

Designers for the play are all CSU, Chico students and alumni. Set designer Michelle Morris and costume designers Zariah Turner and Emily Beets are College of Humanities and Fine Arts students. Chico State alumna Monica Bowker, who graduated three years ago, is the lighting designer.

The cast and crew are working hard to be reverent to the famous children’s show while also bringing new life to it.

“Whether you’ve seen the special 1,000 times or never seen it before, people are in for a holiday treat that’s great for the whole family,” Miller said.

Tickets for the musical are priced at $15 adults, $12 seniors, and $5 students and youth, and are available to purchase at CSU, Chico’s University Box Office, by calling 530-898-6333, or at the door. 

Harlen Adams Theatre is located in Room 144 of the Performing Arts Center. For those who need special seating accommodations, please call 530-898-6333. More information is available online at the School of the Arts website and Facebook page.

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Story by Shelby Casey, School of the Arts publicity assistant


Additional Information

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a stage adaptation of the animated television special of the same name from 1965. Licensing for the stage version first began in 2013 by Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc. with the authorization of the Charles Schulz family and Lee Mendelson (producer of the TV special). 

The TV special received high ratings and acclaim from critics. It received an Emmy and Peabody Award. It has been aired in the United States every Christmas season since its premiere.

The A Charlie Brown Christmas TV script was adapted for stage by Eric Schaeffer. The stage adaptation includes all of Vince Guaraldi’s music from the TV special. Orchestration for the musical is made up of a jazz trio including one piano, one bass, and one percussion (snare drum, bass drum, tom toms, floor tom, hi-hat, cymbals, or handbells). It is approximately eighty minutes long, including an intermission.

Reviews by critics have been very positive. Broadway World called it “a sweet and touching, live action version that is itself an instant holiday classic.” Around the Town Chicago wrote, “it’s like watching the television special come to life!”


About "Peanuts" Author, Charles Schulz

photo of Charles Schulz, portrait style

Charles Schulz was a cartoonist best known for his comic strip Peanuts, which featured the beloved character Charlie Brown when it debuted in 1950. This strip earned him many awards, such as the National Cartoonists Society's Humor Comic Strip Award, the Primetime Emmy Award, Society's Elzie Segar Award, Reuben Award, Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award, and Silver Buffalo Award. 

Schulz was born November 26, 1922. He had been interested in cartooning since childhood. He enrolled in a correspondence course at the Federal School of Applied Cartooning located in his hometown of Minneapolis. However, Schulz grew up during the World War II era. Not soon after he applied, he was drafted for the war. From there he became a staff sergeant with the 20th Armored Division in Europe. Even though he was drafted, that did not stop him from pursing his passion for cartooning. After he was discharged, he went back and became an instructor for the same cartooning school he previously had enrolled in.

A lot of Schulz’s inspirations for the Peanuts strip came from his own personal experiences. Snoopy (Charlie Brown’s dog) stemmed from his childhood pet Spike. Charlie Brown’s first love and constant heartbreak, the Little Red-Haired Girl, was based on a past girlfriend. Schulz had proposed to her, but she turned down his proposal. This strip won over the heart of many Americans and others around the world. The strip was published in 21 languages in about 2,600 newspapers in a total of 75 countries. Schulz was also the first cartoonist to include an African American character (Franklin). After a ton of good reviews, the cartoon strip soon picked up film opportunities and TV specials such as: A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown’s All Stars!, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Come Home, and Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!).

Schulz and Lee Mendelson (one of Schulz's executive producers) worked together to create “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which aired in 1965. Coca-Cola had a partnership with Schulz. The original piolet Schulz presented was the story of the world’s worst baseball player, Charlie Brown. However, Coca-Cola did not want that. They wanted a Christmas special instead. The central plot of the special was to find the true meaning of Christmas beyond the commercialism. They had three months to produce this. Instead of adult actors, Schulz wanted kid actors to do the voices. The special also included Linus reading from the Bible, which was seen as unusual in entertainment. When it aired, about 15 million people watched and the reviews were phenomenal. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was so successful that it continues to be aired today annually, and numerous stage productions have been performed due to the official adaptation in 2013.

Schulz passed away February 12, 2000, the day before his last Peanuts cartoon was released. Once he passed, his legacy was not forgotten. He was one of the biggest cartoonists of the 20th century. Over the course of his life, he had made over 18,000 cartoon strips. The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center was opened in his memory and displays anything from memorabilia to photos. His TV specials and movies are still aired today. 


About the Director

photo of Matthew Teague Miller, portrait style

Matthew Teague Miller currently serves as producing artistic director of the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, a professional equity summer theatre in Clinton, Iowa.  His favorite productions include the Iowa Premieres of Disney’s Newsies and The Bridges of Madison County, as well as Les Miserables, Green Day’s American Idiot, Reefer Madness, Damn Yankees and Recent Tragic Events. Professional directing credits include work at Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, Lincoln Theatre Napa Valley, Timber Lake Playhouse, Triad Stage and others. As an actor, Miller spent three years touring the country with the original Broadway production of Les Miserables, where he worked under Tony Award-winning director Trevor Nunn and Tony Award-nominated director Jason Moore and performed alongside Colm Wilkinson in his final performance as Jean Valjean. Miller received his MFA in directing from University of North Carolina, Greensboro and his BFA in musical theatre from Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Miller is a member of Actor's Equity Association and on the Executive Council of Musical Theatre Education Alliance International.