Shawnee Mission West's online student newspaper

Shawnee Mission West's online student newspaper

Shawnee Mission West's online student newspaper

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SMW Theatre at the Blue Star Awards


The 2023-24 school year has been a bittersweet time for Shawnee Mission West Theatre, seeing not only the departure of this year’s senior class but also the retirement of Eric Magnus, the school’s longtime theatre teacher and director. However, on April 25th, the mood across West Theatre was only joy following the announcement of the 2024 Blue Star Award nominations. West’s fall musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” received seven nominations, including one for Outstanding Overall Production. With a record of 58 schools and over 4,500 students considered for the award, West’s outstanding representation makes for a joyous conclusion to the season and the career of its director.

The Blue Star Awards are the premier theatre award for Kansas City area high schools. Presented by Starlight, the largest nonprofit theatre company in Kansas City, Missouri, the awards are modeled after the prestigious Tony Awards, which are awarded to commemorate the best Broadway productions every year. With 30 different categories of honoraries, the Awards offer area-wide recognition and over $10,000 in scholarships to the best actors, crews, directors, and productions across the KC Metro area. 

Five months before results for the Awards would be released, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” premiered at West, running for three nights. Magnus selected the production for its sentimental value, as well as the humorous and charming nature of the production itself.  

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“I have a fond memory of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts,” said Magnus. “A college roommate [of mine] was playing the cast recording of ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’… and I sort of got hooked. I thought it was a charming musical. And this was 1982 or 3, so […] coming up on my retirement year, it was a full circle moment for me.” Magnus added, “I ended up choosing it not just because of that, but because I felt like we had the cast to create a charming and funny and just joyful musical.”

The musical featured a 16-man cast, including an ensemble of ten people strong. In addition to the cast and crew, the production also employed a pit orchestra recruited from West’s Orchestra and Band to play a live soundtrack. In contrast to previous productions, in which the orchestra was in the pit upstage of the actors, the performers were on an elevated platform behind the actors, costumed in much the same way as the rest of the actors were.

Closing night for the production was simultaneously relieving, joyous, and bittersweet for many of the students involved.

“[The end] felt bittersweet because it was a really nice cast, and a little sad because it was my last musical with the seniors,” said Reece Madsen, a junior who played Cormac in the production. “It’s not a ‘sad that they’re leaving’, but it’s a ‘glad that it happened’. 

Actors also commented on how much better the play was as a result of getting to work with Magnus. 

“He’s such a great director,” said Izzie Kelling, a sophomore and a member of the lighting crew. “He’s gonna be missed, and the next director is gonna have some big shoes to fill.”

“For ‘Charlie Brown, he brought a lot of guidance because he’s worked on so many productions,” said AJ Ory, a sophomore who played the role of Woodstock. “With musicals, we really need to be task-oriented, and he kept us on task because there’s so much work that needs to be put in for the show to go right.”


Nearly half a year later, at the banner unveiling ceremony in the Choir room, all that hard work was rewarded tenfold. The seven nominations took two banners and four people to display and were the most nominations the school has received since Magnus began teaching here. The production received nominations for Outstanding Overall Production, Costume Design, Ensemble, and Orchestra. Senior Faryn Clevenger also received a nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role for her performance as Sally and an invitation to be a part of the Category Ensemble at the awards, while junior August Croushore received the Dream Production award for his submitted work on costume design. 

The tremendous success, perhaps unsurprisingly, elicited celebration from the entire cast and crew. 

“I didn’t realize how big seven was,” said junior Talise Myers, the lighting crew chief. “And then I looked over at Magnus and he was hugging and crying into the choir teacher’s arms and I was like, ‘Oh, this is a big deal.’”

“I was thrilled – I wanted the cast to be recognized for their incredible work,” said Magnus. “For me, having an Outstanding Overall Production nomination [my first year] and now, my final year, y’know, being able to book in that was kind of special. But mostly, I’m proud of the fact that I feel like the cast earned it.” 

The Blue Star Award winners will be announced on May 16th during the award ceremony at Starlight Theater. The cast of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” will also be performing at the ceremony as a result of their nomination for Outstanding Overall Production.

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