Dec 6, 2018

The Redhouse Arts Center will ring in Syracuse’s holiday season a little bit earlier this year.

Theatergoers and Charlie Brown lovers alike can experience the holiday cheer with the stage adaptation of the animated classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Directed by Jonathan Martin, the production runs from Dec. 6 to 16 at the Redhouse Arts Center, located at 400 S. Salina St.

The play stays true to the spirit of the film, with its opening scene being one of Martin’s personal favorites.

“The beginning, when the characters are ice skating, is an exciting part of the play,” said Martin. “It will be really fun to see how the Charlie Brown ice skating is captured live on stage.”

Martin said he was excited to work with younger cast members who come from a variety of backgrounds and skill levels. He said Mariko Iwasa, a tap dancing and juggling star from Tokyo, is a prime example of someone who brings Snoopy to life.

“I’ve created the show around their different personalities. The one thing that connects them is their really good sense of humor and playfulness,” Martin said.

While much of the play draws from the original program, Martin said there’s more room to play around with the stage production. An acclaimed Broadway actor himself, this is Martin’s second time directing at Redhouse, the first time being “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

Sue McKenna, the marketing and PR director, said she is excited for the play as well as the new space, which features three theaters with varying capacities and flexible seating.

“The new Redhouse is spacious and amazing,” McKenna said. “‘A Charlie Brown Christmas will be in the main stage theater and will begin at 7 p.m. instead of 8 p.m., as we want to make it a family event.”

Kids can look forward to a festive setting in the lobby, with trees to decorate, milk and cookies, hot chocolate and more, McKenna added.

Gretchen Martino, the 24-year-old actor who plays Violet — a leading character in the Peanuts crew — revealed there will be a pre-show to add to the holiday cheer. She recommends that audiences arrive to the show early so they don’t miss the special event.

This is Martino’s first stage performance in Syracuse. She said she has been performing professionally since a young age and is now a performance arts teaching fellow at Frazer K-8 School in Syracuse.

“I enjoy playing Violet, being mean and messing around with everyone,” Martino said. “It’s so different from the roles I normally play. But it’s so much fun being in Charlie Brown. Opening night will be a great start to the Christmas season.”

As for Charlie himself, 29-year-old actor Maxwell Anderson is both anxious and excited for opening night.

“Charlie Brown is a lot of fun, but Dec. 6 is D-Day,” he said. “It will give us an idea of the audience’s reaction.”

This is Anderson’s seventh performance at the Redhouse, but he didn’t initially plan on auditioning for this show. When he was offered the leading role anyway, he took it — “It’s Charlie Brown after all,” he said, smiling.

Martin believes creating theater is a collaborative effort, Anderson said, where every cast member contributes to the play in terms of ideas and suggestions.

Both Anderson and Martino agreed that while it has been a lot of hard work, the fun outweighs it. The cast has had their fair share of laughs in the rehearsal room.

“Sally, played by Addy Whitener, has to sing in the Peanuts style, and each time she would belt out her part in the most loud, abrasive and out-of-key manner, we would burst out laughing,” Anderson said.

Tickets for “A Charlie Brown Christmas” are priced at $32 for the general public and $27 for seniors and students with a valid ID. For more information, visit

This article was published in The Daily Orange, as Staff Writer,