You’re still a good man, Charlie Brown

Cast reunites after 40 years

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published November 25, 2015

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TROY — Good grief.

It had been 40 years since the 1975 production of Lincoln High School’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and it was time to reunite the cast.

On the evening of Nov 17, the cast members — some who haven’t seen each other since the mid-1970s — gathered for a 40-year reunion at Shield’s Restaurant and Pizzeria.

The students performed the show May 2-3, 1975, at LHS in Warren, and last Tuesday sat around a table remembering the good times. They also managed to sing a few harmonies from the show.

There was Bryan Kadrich, who played Charlie Brown; Mary (Cusmano) Skiba, the perfect Lucy; Dan Fantore as the piano-playing Schroeder; Franklin Dohanyos, cast as Snoopy; and Joe Toth, who played Linus. Sadly, one cast member was missing: Mary Gmitter, who played Patty, and has since died.

It was Dohanyos, of Royal Oak, who organized the get-together, finding his former castmates on Facebook. He brought photos from their original show, a ticket stub, a show program and sheet music to the reunion. The 1977 LHS graduate even purchased blue T-shirts signifying the milestone for each cast member. Seeing everyone was “wild” and “surreal” for Dohanyos.

“It can’t be 40 years,” said Fantore, a 1975 graduate, now a Farmington Hills resident.

“It’s amazing just how many words come back in the songs you kind of forgot about,” said Skiba, a ’75 LHS graduate who now makes her home in Macomb Township.

Because there were only six cast members, everyone bonded. The performers felt they had a lot in common with their characters.

“I was the biggest loser,” joked Kadrich, a ’75 LHS graduate who now lives in Grosse Pointe Woods. “We grew into our parts.” For Kadrich, “it’s hard not to be a fan” of the Peanuts gang.

“I think we can relate to them,” he said. “I have a 3-year-old grandson who loves getting Peanuts stuff.”

“They’re clean and funny,” Dohanyos said.

“I think Charlie Brown was the example of the kid with no confidence,” Skiba said. “We thought everybody had it together, but every single person had issues.”

“The musical really brought them to life,” Fantore said. “Joe was a great Linus, I thought.”

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” marked the first time that Dohanyos acted, sang and danced onstage in front of an audience. In addition to making others laugh as Lucy, Skiba was the show’s choreographer. She joked that it was because she worked for free, but others saw her talent and dedication.

“She was a task-master,” Dohanyos said.

At the reunion, the cast reminisced about former classmates and who is up to what. They also remembered Gmitter.

“Tall, thin and beautiful” is how Dohanyos described her. “Good actor.”

“She was the class valedictorian,” Skiba recalled. “She played oboe. She sang.”

“She was a strong singer,” Fantore said. “She was a low alto.”

Jim Piper was the director, and Ben Walker was the musical director of the LHS show, but both were unable to make the reunion.

“They really taught us a lot. It was great preparation,” said Fantore, who continued singing at the University of Michigan as a member of the glee club. Fantore also was cast in the chorus of “The Magic Flute” at Michigan.

Toth, who graduated in ’76, said that because of what he learned from the directors, he was able to play in local bands over the years.

“School activities were really important,” said Skiba, who became a member of the Macomb Community College show group, the Macombers, and owns Mary Skiba’s School of Dance in Clinton Township.

Kadrich has remained active in theater. He once played the character of Tevye in his favorite production, “Fiddler on the Roof.” Most recently, Kadrich performed two shows with the Grosse Pointe Theatre.

All the performers have their top musicals: “South Pacific,” “Wicked,” “A Chorus Line” and “Cats.”

Skiba has witnessed how much theater has changed through the years.

“The difference now are the special effects they can do,” she said. 

The cast members visit their former Van Dyke Public Schools neighborhood from time to time. Just recently, Fantore was driving through when he saw that Elizabeth Little Elementary School, on MacArthur, is now the Michael Dyke Administrative Center.

“Michael Dyke was our chemistry teacher at Lincoln,” Fantore said.

The group’s 40-year reunion occurred not long after “The Peanuts Movie” was released in theaters Nov. 6.

“We had a cool cast,” Dohanyos said. “We had a damn good show.”

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