Prince William Little Theatre’s A Charlie Brown Christmas feels as comfortable and warm as snuggling up on the couch and watching classic Christmas movies with a mug of cocoa. Supported by the hard work of set designer Nick Mastrangelo, set painters Lori Ransom and Kathryne Mastrangelo, and costume designer Susy Moorstein, director Chrissy Mastrangelo leans into the nostalgia and embraces the classic Peanuts atmosphere both aesthetically and with close attention to characterization.
The plot is the same as the animated feature from which A Charlie Brown Christmas takes its name. Charlie Brown (Nick MacFarlane) isn’t quite sure why he isn’t in the Christmas spirit. With help (or ridicule) from the rest of the Peanuts gang, he attempts to direct a Christmas play, but nobody will listen. Leaving Lucy (Kacie Brady) in charge of the rehearsal, Charlie Brown and best friend Linus (Trevor Nordike) leave in search of a Christmas tree. Unfortunately, their tree selection is met with contempt from the rest of the gang. Linus then reminds everyone about the true meaning of Christmas and after a quick Christmas tree transformation, the gang sings “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
All of this is followed by a singalong of popular holiday songs, which transitions delightfully into the next event: PWLT’s Choral Christmas Card. The cast of A Charlie Brown Christmas sing and dance to even more of your favorite Christmastime classics!
You couldn’t ask for a better Charlie Brown in Nick MacFarlane. Even if he wasn’t wearing the iconic yellow and black striped shirt, a passing glance leaves no doubt as to who is playing Charlie Brown because MacFarlane has perfected the Charlie Brown frown and walk.
Some of the best interactions of the evening are between MacFarlane and Trevor Nordike, who absolutely nails the understated sincerity of Linus. Nordike integrated Linus’s ever-present blanket into his mannerisms so effectively that even though it is always with him, it never overshadows his performance.
Kacie Brady’s Lucy is stellar and one of the highlights of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Brady’s line delivery is lively and very much inspired by the original. When Snoopy (Katherine Blondin) goes in for a kiss, Brady responds with the classic and hilariously well-done outburst about dog germs. Blondin brings a lot of Joe Cool meets Class Clown energy to her Snoopy, which brings a lot of lightness to her scenes.
Rounding out the rest of the Peanuts gang are Sally (Lisa Arnold), Schroeder (Timothy Burhouse), Violet (Bevin Hester), Patty (Laura Castillo), Pig Pen (Cana Wade), Frieda (Darcy Heisey) and Shermy (Lindsey Capuno). Some of the silliest moments are from Cana Wade, who performs Pig Pen in a constant miasma of dust, with a broad grin and great presence. The depth of this ensemble is almost impossible to overstate, because in addition to setting the mood for A Charlie Brown Christmas, they are also some of the primary performers in the Choral Christmas Card. Watch out for Bevin Hester, who signs in ASL for the singalong; she also dazzles in her solo in “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Even when in supporting roles in the songs, everyone is clearly having a great time.
There are so many reasons to see PWLT’s A Charlie Brown Christmas but if you need just one, it will put you in the Christmas spirit and bring a smile to your face.
Running Time: One hour, with no intermission.
A Charlie Brown Christmas, presented by Prince William Little Theatre, plays through December 22, 2019, at the Hylton Performing Arts Center’s Gregory Family Theater, 10960 George Mason Cir, Manassas, VA. Tickets are available at the door or online.
Assistant Director, Hayley Katarina; Music Director, Justin Streletz; Producers, Jennifer Rodriguez; Stage Manager, Katie Morris; Assistant Stage Manager, Pat McInerney; Lighting Design, Peter Ponzini; Sound Design, Michelle Matthews; Properties, Katie Sue Ransom