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Backstage with Mim Vanderlinden, Music Director

By • Mar 12th, 2007 • Category: Interviews, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

We conclude our shadowing of the Springfield Community Theatre’s production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown by talking with Mim Vanderlinden, who was the show’s musical director [MP3 7:26 2.1MB].

Mike: Hi this is Mike Clark and I am backstage with Mim Vanderlinden. We just finished a performance of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown at the Springfield Community Theatre. Thanks for talking with me.

Mim: Sure. Not a problem. I enjoy it.

Mike: Let’s learn a little about you before we talk about Charlie Brown. Where’s your musical training from?

Mim: My musical training. I’ve been playing the piano since I was 4. Actually this is the first, besides doing children’s theater, this is the first time I’ve music directed an adult show. I’m mainly a performer. I’ve done community theatre. I’ve done professional work. I got a WATCH nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Musical when I did Miss Hannigan at Aldersgate for Annie. I’ve worked with the Washington Savoyards which is a lyric opera company. Done a lot of dinner theater. I’ve worked down at the Lazy Susan Dinner Theater in Anything Goes. Black Coffee. Done a couple shows with them. But it was really fun to do this because it was just outside of my boundary. I get comfortable and then, “Ok, let’s try something different.” It was a big challenge though, quite honestly. I love them to death, but the gammit of ranges of ages is a little challenging from the musical standpoint.

Mike: Ok, I’m not a musical person. Tell me about that. My impression of Charlie Brown is it’s a pretty easy show, but me looking at the book made me realize this is tricky.

Mim: The music for me being the accompanist for them is extremely difficult. I’ve gotten awards for piano. I’ve gone to state competitions through college and stuff like that. But the score itself is very very hard. It’s also hard with my family circumstances, not being here as often as they would have liked. The cast ended up using the CD. They ended up using the off Broadway performance. It was the ’92 cast I think. They got used to hearing bells. They got used to hearing all these other oddities that a piano won’t give you. So then coming into it and trying to pull it all together was a little rough to start off with.

Mike: Would it have been much easier to have a more full orchestra or a complete orchestra?

Mim: They would have had an easier time. The cast would have, I’m sure of that. Because what happens is, is musically the big conductor score that I have, it incorporates all of the parts. The alto sax part, the percussion part, the flute part. All of it into the piano music. You look at some of the pages and it’s just black with notes. I had to edit out some stuff and the hard part about that was the stuff I edited out, might have been something that Snoopy was listening for, for a cue or Charlie Brown was waiting to hear this and a lot of it is superfulous. Getting that together was a little bit challenging.

Mike: How did the rehearsals work? We only came to a few of the early rehearsals where it was the whole group and then we kind of sat out when it was the individual ones. Then it was the big ones at the end. Tell us about the rehearsals in the middle.

Mim: The ones in the middle were primarily just pulling together, for me personally it was just all music. I came to see the early ones and they were, “Let’s sit around and learn music.” Then we got to the mid ones and it was, “OK let’s put the books down and learn the music.” Then it was: “Let’s fix it. Now let’s put the books down and let’s actually add some movement.” That was a challenge because they tend to forget a lot of the things. When they’re right by the piano, not a problem. They walk away from the piano and it’s like, “Did we not go over this?” It was a little challenging. Plus this space is not conducive. It is singing in a cave. Bottom line.

Mike: I was about to ask you about the facilities here at the church we’re at.

Mim: The sound bounces so that they’ve got to stop singing a beat ahead. Or else they fall behind on the next spot. That is singing in a cave.

Mike: What recommendations would you make to the next group that wants to do this show. Anything they should do or shouldn’t do or things they should know up front?

Mim: For doing this show, I would keep it small. I love the fact that it’s only six people. I know with a lot of groups that would probably be a turn off because in community theater a lot of ticket sales are friends. The more people you have, the more people you have coming to see the show. But it works much better as an ensemble piece if it’s a tight knit group of people. You can’t have a chorus and it would probably make a better sound. Although I love the cast that I have because their sound is phenominal for having six people. Then again the space also helps because they do echo the second they sing.

Mike: Do you have any recommendations for any other theater group that might want to do You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown? Musically.

Mim: I would say use a band. It’s helpful. It adds more body to the music underneath them. Never use canned music, although it’s in your contract so you really can’t. Doing You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Just remember to be a kid. Even musically it needs to sound like little kids singing it. Have fun. That’s the bottom line with this show. It is a fun show. It’s light hearted and has a moral at the end. You know you’ve done a good job when people leave and they’re just happy. Happiness is your last song so you hope that they get the message.

Mike: What was your favorite song in the show?

Mim: My favorite to play has to be Suppertime. Snoopy’s song in Act 2. Mainly because I am a huge huge Scott Joplin fan. That kept me playing the piano and ragtime and all the Vaudevillian sound. I love to play that one. Musically to listen to or to hear is Beethoven Day. I love the way the composer brought in themes of Beethoven. And even throughout all the scene change music, it’s phenomenal analyzing it. I tend to, me personally when I work, I analyze my music. So I know “I go into this chord structure and then then that chord structure. Then he’s going to change keys.” Looking at it from that standpoint is phenomenal of how things are. The motifs and the theme are just brought in throughout the entire show. Beethoven Day, not just this group of people, but I think it sounds the best. It’s just fun. How odd is it that I’m a musician and it’s about a musician. It’s great.

Mike: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the show or just anything in general?

Mim: I had a good time. It was fun. I hope to do this show again. I would actually like to perform. I would like to do this show.

Mike: So the loaded question is, who would you like to be in the show?

Mim: I think that’s actually a no brainer. I would like to do Snoopy. If they decide to cast a female. Generally it’s done by a male. So if that doesn’t happen then I’d like to do Sally. It’s a great part. They’re all great parts and this cast has done a phenomenal job with it.

Mike: Ok, well thank you very much for talking with me.

Mim: Thank you. I had fun. Thank you.

Mike: You’re welcome.

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