By Beki Pineda
YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN – Book, Music and Lyrics by Clark Gesner based on the comic strip by Charles M. Schultz; Directed by Nick Sugar. Produced by Town Hall Arts Center (2450 West Main, Littleton) through April 18. Tickets available at 303-794-2787 or townhallartscenter.org.
You’re a good man, Nickie Sugar, for bringing this nostalgic valentine to childhood into our lives at a time when we all long for the “good ‘ol days.” You knew just what would make us smile, remember, and rejoice that here we are again in a live theatre watching live actors perform together in their own bubble (or, in this case, fishbowl) with other audience members sitting two or three seats away from us. Good for Town Hall as well for arranging all of this and making us feel as safe as observers at an aquarium.
Designed as a comic strip with short vignettes enhanced with music, the whimsical script explores the highs and lows of childhood. From a D on your homework to the successful flight of a kite. From the terror of first love to the affection of a big sister. Playing baseball together and playing with your dog. All of these and many more fun memories are played out for our enjoyment. Carter Edward Smith uses his “dopey” vibe (remember Seymour?) to great effect as the sometime clueless Charlie Brown. His unfulfilled yearning for the Little Red-Headed Girl brings back nostalgic longing for your own first loves. Like the puppets in AVENUE Q, Charlies is on a search for happiness and what makes a “good man”. One conclusion that he very wisely comes to is that if he can find happiness for himself, he can then help others find their own happiness.
Charlie’s high flying dog, Snoopy, is given an energetic portrayal by Logan Traver as he chases the Red Baron and frolics through the musical numbers. He describes a dog’s life and decides he’s got it pretty easy. Until someone forgets to feed him. Who among us as we struggle to give up cigarettes or sugar cannot relate to Little Brother Linus as he tries to rid himself of his security blanket. We watch as he throws it on the ground and walks away . . . . and then desperately runs back to collect it. Andrew Alber makes that struggle real, painful and humorous – all at the same time. Matt LaFontaine brings his bouncy charm to the role of Schroeder, the virtuoso on a toy piano who perfects the definition of aloofness as Lucy attempts to coerce him into a relationship. He even manages to pull together a celebration of Beethoven’s birthday.
The women in the cast also play an important role. Lucy is given obnoxious charm by Brekken Baker while Little Sister Sallie comes to life with the help of Mica Dominguez-Robinson. Lucy’s unrequited affection for Schroeder leads her to finally conclude “Never try to discuss marriage with a musician!” Sallie becomes thoroughly disgusted with a D she got on her homework and uses it as an excuse to create an ever changing philosophy for handling disappointment.
Happily Town Hall has managed to hang on to their top notch crew of technicians. They have created the safe environment in which the actors can perform and the audience can watch with security. The plexiglass shields which circle the stage space create the slightest little distraction because of the occasional reflections on the inner sides. It made me wonder if the cast was watching themselves perform or if they could see through the reflections to the audience. The crew also deserves kudos for the “Kite Gag.” Charlie Brown tries to fly his kite around the notorious kite-eating tree. He successfully gets it aloft, enjoys his few minutes of triumph before the kite starts to fly away and then finally explodes. This difficult special effect was performed flawlessly by all involved. Even though it sounds like a full show band, the on-line program gives musical credit to only Donna Kolpan Debrecini on keyboards and Sean Case on percussion. All I can say is WOW! Good job, everyone.
A WOW factor of 8.5!!