SIERRA MADRE, Calif. — It's truly a dog's life for actor Alexander Mashikian.
"Welcome to my doghouse!" he beamed as he ducked into Snoopy's iconic red residence.
Not only is this Mashikian's first time back on stage since the beginning of the pandemic, but it's also his first full musical in about five years. His little costume tail is definitely wagging.
"I am exponentially happy to be singing again," he said with palpable joy. "I can't express how happy it makes me to sing."
Everything about this production of "You're Good Man, Charlie Brown" puts a smile on his face.
He loves the perfectly primary-colored scenery.
"Everything just looks like it was drawn by Charles Shultz," he said. "It's amazing."
Of course, he loves his doghouse, even though it doesn't have great ventilation.
"I keep a towel in here because it gets hot and sweaty!" he laughed.
But perhaps what Mashikian loves most is being back in Sierra Madre, performing in the very park where he played as a child when he was growing up in the area. Now he's surrounded on stage by grownups playing children in a show that director Christian Lebano chose specifically to appeal to families.
"I thought it would be the perfect antidote to the last year and a half of being separated, of being socially distant, of being troubled, of being sad," Lebano explained.
There was a practical reason too. With so much uncertainty, Lebano needed something that could be kind of pandemic friendly.
"We were very eager to come back into the world," he said of the planning that began more than a year ago. "And I thought that I needed to find a show that had a small number of cast members and that if we had to, could be done with social distance."
Luckily, it didn't come to that, and the COVID-tested cast is able to do what the characters love: singing together when the day is over. It's a line from the song "Happiness," performed at the show's end after night has fallen on the park and the stage.
"And so at the end, when the kids in their pajamas come out and look at the stars and sing 'Happiness,' it's really magical," Lebano said.
The cast may huddle together, but the audience is spaced out around the lawn. They can take a cue from Linus and BYO-blanket, or they can set up lawn chairs in one of the 41 circles painted on the grass.
"Circles for two, circles for four, circles for six," Lebano explained. "So with our show, you're not buying tickets. You are buying real estate."
Not to mention a communal experience, something many people — and one pup — have been begging for.
"It's about family," Mashikian said. "It's about coming together. It's about friendship. Pets and owners. Anything and everything that makes happiness exist."
A night full of simple wisdom, cartoon cuteness and nostalgia, and as Snoopy sings, it's "Not bad. Not bad at all."