A Charlie Brown Christmas Live Onstage is heading to the Fox Theatre on Dec. 11. The show, which is touring across the U.S., brings the iconic Peanuts Christmas television special to life. Aaron Robinson, a 2020 graduate of the University of Michigan Musical Theatre Department, stars as Charlie Brown. Here, he speaks with Hour Detroit about his time at U-M, how he and the cast prepared for live shows, and what cities he’s looking forward to visiting.
Hour Detroit: As you’ve embarked on your debut touring role, how did you channel a legendary character like Charlie Brown?
Aaron Robinson: I actually played Snoopy when I was a senior in high school, and prior to that we performed You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, so when I saw that they were casting this show it felt almost serendipitous. The Peanuts have been a part of my life for so long, I feel like this really lined up with my “Peanuts” path.
Stage fright is still a major part of performing for me, but it’s easy to use that in the performance. Charlie Brown can be a nervous little bucket of sludge sometimes, so I try not to ignore the fear and instead use it in the character.
You acted in productions like Sweeney Todd at U-M. Are there any lessons you learned in those production sand from the theater program that you’ve carried to this performance?
While they are massively different in terms of content, both are surprisingly huge productions. Sweeney Todd at University of Michigan was in a big venue and the play has so much going on, and this production of Charlie Brown Christmas goes so far beyond the 30-minute Christmas special that we grew up with. There’s so much dancing, and there’s so much scenery. The characters are also so iconic as well; it’s a world that is much bigger than me and my castmates. The comic strip has been around even before the Christmas special and it’s an image that has truly stood the test of time. It’s so special to me to be a part of it.
A huge lesson I learned in my acting classes at University of Michigan is that it’s always about your scene partner. It can really help you get out of your head to stop thinking about yourself and start focusing on the people you’re on stage with. When we’re performing on stage, I’m always thinking about the connections we’ve built as a cast.
Is there a particular part of the performance that you’re most excited to share with the audience?
I’m not on stage for this part, but I love being in the wing to watch it. Chris Critelli, who plays Snoopy, is a phenomenal dancer. Snoopy is silent in our performance, but he’s kicking, flipping, and dancing his butt off out there on stage. It’s so fun to watch. It honestly baffles me to watch him.
In a show that involves a lot of song, dance, and theatrics, what was the rehearsal schedule like leading up to opening night? How have you and your castmates grown together through the process?
We had two weeks of rehearsal in New York, and then one week of it in Iowa where we did our first performance. It was an extremely fast turnaround for such a massive show, the entire thing coming together in a little less than three weeks. It was a combined effort of a lot of people who really love their jobs working extremely hard. I love our cast. We are all living together on the bus as we’re touring. It’s all very rock n’ roll. It’s not a challenge to act like friends on stage because we all are in real life.
What city are you most looking forward to performing in on the tour?
I’m really excited to be in Detroit. Being a Michigan boy, Detroit feels like home. I grew up in Kentucky, and we are performing in Nashville, which is just two hours from where I was raised. We’re also going to a ton of places I’ve never been before, and I can’t wait to bring the performance across the country.
Tickets start at $30 for A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage. There will be three shows on Dec. 11 — one at noon, one at 3:30 p.m., and another at 7 p.m. Visit 313presents.com for more information and to purchase tickets.