‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ at Sandy Spring Theatre Group and The City of Gaithersburg at The Arts Barn

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This week marks the 50th anniversary of the debut of the American classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson. That is right – Charlie, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, and the gang have been warming the hearts of Holiday lovers for a half-century!

The cast of 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.' Phoot by Scott D'Vileskis and Brian Boyd.
The cast of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas.’ Phoot by Scott D’Vileskis and Brian Boyd.

Bringing this family tradition to life on the stage in 2013 was Signature Theatre’s Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer, and this new production by Sandy Spring Theatre Group is directed with much holiday joy by Andres Aviles.

The set, designed by Andres Aviles, Theresa Olson, and Lauren-Nicole Gabel, is sparse, but they stuck with the necessities, including Snoopy’s house and Lucy’s iconic Dr. Stand. These pieces mirro the original cartoon nicely. The costumes, designed by Sandra Eggleston, add the needed color. I especially liked the dresses designed for the girls, each with their own distinct colored dress and Pig Pen’s signature cloud of dirt. Whenever Pig-Pen (Mark Ludder) moved he garnered an instant laugh with this well-constructed site gag.

John Reece, as the forlorn Charlie Brown, was perfectly cast. His deadpan affectation was textbook. Equally fitting in her role was Tracy Husted as Lucy. Husted had just the right amount of energy, and didn’t overplay her, which is very easy to do. The pair played nicely off of each other.

Scott D’Vileskis was delightfully nerdy as the iconic Linus. Shroeder, played by Dave Robinson, was also believable and fun and had a special energy when playing his beloved Beethoven.

The crowd favorite of the bunch was Snoopy, played by Mollybeth Rushfield, she had the crowd roaring with just the flick of her “paw.”

Charlie Brown (John Reece) and Lucy (Tracy Husted). Photo by Scott D'Vileskis and Brian Boyd.
Charlie Brown (John Reece) and Lucy (Tracy Husted). Photo by Scott D’Vileskis and Brian Boyd.

The rest of the cast all looked like they were having a blast, which made us in the audience have just as much fun! There was not a weak performer in the bunch, Violet (Renetta Morelli), Frieda (Andi Allison), Patty (Courtney James), Sherman (Jack Husted), Pig Pen (Mark Ludder) and the gang were beaming with energy, a requirement in a show like this and that is geared towards the kid or the kids at heart.

Sally, played by Jena Stone, stood out as the lovable spoiled brat, with her hair done just as the old cartoon. The stage lit up whenever she appeared on it.

The show is followed by an intermission, cookies and hot chocolate available to indulge the guests, and then all are treated to a reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by ol’ Saint Nick! Bill Spitz plays the jolly Santa Clause. Spitz is endearing and fun and a true delight for all of the children. Stay after for a picture!

This is a fun little show for youngsters of all ages. I  highly recommend a visit to the Arts Barn to see A Charlie Brown Christmas! It is the perfect holiday show for the entire family!

Running Time: 30 minutes, followed by a 20-minute intermission, and a 20-minute reading and pictures with Santa.

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A Charlie Brown Christmas plays through December 20, 2015, at Sandy Spring Theatre Group and the City of Gaithersburg performing at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn – 311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets, call (301) 258-6394, or purchase them online.

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