NORWICH – Mark Sands is perhaps best known for his role as the music teacher at Norwich High who stages the yearly high school musical – and it’s a role he hopes to continue even after retirement.
To that end, Sands has partnered in forming the Midland Players, whose first production takes place at the Martin Kappel Theater in Norwich this weekend. Performances of the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” are scheduled for 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
“I guess you could say it’s an all-star cast,” Sands said, referring to the six students – most of them former students – who comprise his cast of “Peanuts” comic strip characters. “A lot of them were still in town, or going to school in Oneonta or at Morrisville,” he said, referring to the serendipity which allowed him to assemble some of his favorite performers for this inaugural show.
“It’s a different kind of experience, working with them as young adults,” the director said. “I’ve given them a lot more freedom to interject.”
This is the third time Sands has been involved with “Charlie Brown” – first when he played Schroeder in college, next as the director of the pit orchestra when he taught in Schenectady, and this weekend during Colorscape Chenango. “It helps being familiar with the show, and having a small cast,” Sands said.
NHS Class of 2003 alum Josh Manley plays the ivory-tickling Schroeder. Like the rest of the cast, getting involved in the show didn’t take much arm-twisting for Manley. “I saw Mr. Sands at graduation last year” as the music teacher revealed his plans for a summer show. “I just said, ‘OK, sign me up,’” he said.