For more than 50 years, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has filled homes with joy each holiday season. Now the experience comes to life in "A Charlie Brown Christmas: Live on Stage."

Playing Thursday at the Fox Theater, the show is sure to please fans of the 1965 animated special, said producer Todd Gershwin.

"(It's) the same wonderful story and characters as the TV special, including Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and Lucy, but with more music and dancing, and lots of holiday fun," he wrote in an email. "Fans will also enjoy having a terrific live band on stage playing the incredible Vince Guaraldi music from the television special."

Thomas Netter, who plays Charlie Brown, said he's impressed by the show's magical staging.

"We have fantastic projections that bring you into the world of Charlie Brown, bring in that cartoon element behind us real actors," he said.

That starts with the opening scene in which the Peanuts gang ice-skates. There's no real ice but, without divulging any stagecraft, Netter said they definitely glide.

And that joy you see on stage is not just skilled performance.

"The actors, all of us, are really having fun exploring the world of Peanuts and going back to being children again. We're paying homage to the special and discovering things in the material and keeping it fresh."

Netter said he's a big fan of the source material: "It’s one of those things it was ingrained in my DNA and my brothers' and sisters' as well. I don’t think I can remember a Christmas without watching it."

Bringing the title character to the stage was no easy feat, the actor said.

"It’s definitely a little daunting," he said. "The challenge is that everyone knows Charlie Brown and they have their own relationship with him. ... This is my version of Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown through my eyes."

At the meet and greets with the audience (for VIP ticket holders), Netter said he often sees the light of recognition in the eyes of grandparents and children alike.

"It’s really rewarding when people do recognize him."

The touring production, one of two for the show, continues until the end of the year, meaning the cast and crew will not be home for Christmas. But Netter said, much like the Peanuts gang, they've banded together. 

"We’ll miss going home ... but we’ve built this lovely little family, 12 in the cast and 12 in the crew," Netter said. "We’re lucky to have such a great relationship together.

"This is definitely a Christmas that I will remember for the rest of my life."

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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