“Happiness is anyone and anything at all that’s loved by you.” This line from the final song of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown completely sums up why the Peanuts Gang has remained such a popular part of so many lives for over 50 years. It is very obvious as you watch Other Voices Theatre’s production of this musical, based on the “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schultz with book, music, and lyrics by Clark Gesner, that this group of children are well-loved and bring happiness to director, Susan Thornton, and the entire cast.
In the curtain speech prior to the show, Ms. Thornton reminisced about her love for the Peanuts Gang as a child and still today. She hoped the younger generation who may not have grown up reading the comics would still enjoy them while watching this show and appreciate the characters just as much as she had. The enjoyment was evident throughout the show as a young boy probably no older than four giggled at the silliness onstage, and when Lucy slugged Linus, the audience heard a little voice say, “That’s not very nice.”
You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown is presented as a series of vignettes much like the comic strip. As the show opens with the title song, all the characters are criticizing Charlie Brown for his many shortcomings—his inferiority, clumsiness, his innate ability to fail at everything he tries to do, while also extolling his virtues—he’s kind, believes everything he’s told, and basically just a good man. Throughout the show, we see him live up to all their low expectations of him while getting to know all the other members of the gang as well. There were numerous scenes that fans of the comic strip are very familiar with, such as Lucy worshiping Schroeder as he plays his beloved Beethoven; philosophical conversations at the brick wall; and Charlie Brown trying to get his kite to fly and not get stuck in any trees, losing the baseball game for his team, and trying to convince himself to talk to the little red-haired girl.
Ms. Thornton and music director, Monika McCormick, have brought together a very talented cast of young actors, most of whom are making their Other Voices debut. The highlight of the ensemble as a whole was “The Book Report” on “Peter Rabbit” with Lucy hating the book and just trying to get the 100 words required, Schroeder comparing it to “Robin Hood” which he obviously loves, Linus giving a deep, philosophical dissertation, Charlie Brown procrastinating just one more day on the assignment, while Sally and Snoopy are on their own rabbit hunt. Another enjoyable ensemble moment was during “T-E-A-M (The Baseball Game)” which had the audience rooting for Charlie Brown to make the game-winning hit.
Newcomer Scott Hart as Charlie Brown was the heart and soul of this production. Scott epitomized the lovable loser’s personality as he bounced back and forth between optimism and pessimism, convincing himself often that he is positive he would fail. He had everyone in his corner, hoping he would succeed, whether he was trying to keep his kite in the air, bemoaning his lack of valentines (even Snoopy received more than he), or convincing himself to talk to the little red-haired girl. His inner monologues tugged at everyone’s heartstrings.
Carrie McKnight was a force to reckon with as overbearing Lucy. Whether dancing on and around the piano while trying to take Schroeder’s attention from Beethoven or giving Charlie Brown psychiatric advice, she did it with sass. Her facial expressions and the flick of her hair as she stormed off time and again added the exclamation point to her character’s many rants.
Zachary Bryant as Linus was an absolute joy to watch. His philosophical musings were quite amusing, and when he sang to and danced with his blanket in “My Blanket and Me”, he lit up the stage with his outstanding dancing ability.
No stranger to Other Voices, the strongest singer was Katherine Worley as Sally. Whether fighting with her jump rope or trying to convince her teachers she deserved a higher grade, she commanded the stage every time she appeared with her blonde curls bouncing energetically. She had the audience in stitches as she tried to come up with “My New Philosophy.”
Jack Dempsey was very enjoyable as Schroeder as he tried to ignore Lucy’s romantic gestures and focus on his one true love, Ludwig Von Beethoven. He got his chance to shine during “Beethoven Day” and his exciting retelling of “Robin Hood,” I mean “Peter Rabbit,” in “The Book Report.”
The youngest and most adorable member of the cast was Joy Campbell as Snoopy. This high school sophomore was a little ball of energy, whether portraying the WWI flying ace on her Sopwith Camel fighting The Red Baron, dancing on her doghouse, or making mealtime a joyous occasion in “Suppertime.” Sometimes her diction got a little difficult to understand when she sang fast, but she had the audience in the palm of her hand from her first howl.
The small musical combo consisting of Eric Seebach (keyboard), Jeb Cliber (percussion), and Jay McRoberts (bass) was the perfect complement to this production.
The set for this production, designed by Lee Hebb, was minimalistic and true to the style of the comic strip, with large images from the comic strip around the back wall of the stage. Lighting design by Steve Knapp and sound by Erica LeFebvre, with sound board operator, Thomas Bricker, set the tone of the show quite well. Costumes and wigs by Patty Byrne, Nancy Speck, Welmoed Siskin, and Jennifer Maschal-Lorms and props by Pat Dickinson, Kathy Kyle, and Jennifer Maschal-Lorms were faithful to the comic strip. Stage managers Jeanne Lloyd and Christine Levy, kept the show running smoothly.
For a truly enjoyable and nostalgic evening out with friends and family members of all ages, this production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown is a must. Order tickets soon as this is an intimate theatre, so seating is limited.
Running time: Approximately ninety minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown plays through May 19, 2019, performed by Other Voices Theatre at The Performing Arts Factory, 244B South Jefferson Street in Frederick, MD. For tickets call the box office at (301) 662-3722 or go online.