CENTERVILLE — Centerpointe Legacy Theatre is offering up this summer a production of the endearing musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, based on the beloved comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. The musical was written by Clark Gesner, with additional dialogue by Michael Mayer and additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. This production, directed by Josh Richardson, has maintained the charm and character of the original comic strip, offering a delightful evening of thought-provoking joy.
The first thing I noticed when walking into the Leishman black box theater was the set, designed by Josh Richardson and Brian Hahn to replicate the look and feel of Peanuts. As the show progressed, this became one of my favorite elements. There were two panels made to look like the frame of a comic strip, and many of the scenes were staged in front of these panels to imitate a live action comic strip resulting in a lovely visualization of the stories I know so well.
Richardson exceled in the casting of this show, with each player personifying their role with such expertise that I cannot think of a complaint of any characterization. First, there’s consider Snoopy, played by Dale Boam. For an adult man to portray a loved puppy without coming across as immature or silly is certainly an achievement. Boam was able to exceed my expectations by not only being entertaining, but also excelling vocally, especially during the song “Suppertime.” Next, there is the character of Linus, intelligent and wise beyond his years, yet clinging to certain parts of childhood such as sucking his thumb and the love of his blanket. Kurt Christensen was delightful in his performance of this character, and his iconic “My Blanket and Me” was charming, especially with some added technical elements that surprised me. I was slightly disappointed that the number was not done as a tap dance (as I have seen before), but the additional technical elements did improve my opinion of the staging and performance. Lucy, the bossy perfectionist, was played by Kimberly Bishop with excellence. As a little sister, my favorite number of Lucy’s has always been “Little Known Facts,” and the chemistry of Bishop absolutely believing she understands everything and Christensen with his innocent belief that his older sibling can do no wrong was a beautiful portrayal of the special relationship of a younger sibling to an older sibling.
One of my favorite characters of the evening was Schroeder, played by Jeffery Black. In many reviews, I refer to what I call “face acting,” or the ability to convey emotion, plot, and feeling with just facial expression. When Bishop tries to win the heart of Black in the song “Schroeder,” his facial expressions were epic in their portrayal of his discomfort and disagreement. Additionally, the character of Sally, played by Emily Woods, was lovable and amusing, with her iconic song “My New Philosophy” also being a highlight of the evening.
Of course, perhaps the most important element of this show is the character of Charlie Brown, and Jake Heywood did not disappoint. I remember reading an article by Charles Schulz where he discussed how Charlie Brown never gets the opportunity to win, but the endearing quality in him is how he keeps trying and going in the face of losing. This is a hard line to manage—being consistently beaten down, yet remaining optimistic and creating empathy within the audience. Heywood managed that line with ease, and from his first entrance I found myself in his corner, and I was silently cheering as he reaches the connection of the chewed pencil marks from the little redheaded girl, showing we are all human after all.
In a show like You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, it is important that such a small ensemble have a fair amount of chemistry and blend. These six actors were able to accomplish this with ease. I did not feel that one stood out more than another, and each of the musical numbers had perfect blend and harmony thanks in part I am sure to the musical direction by Matthew Hewitt.
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is so important for a time such as this. When tragic conditions, fears, and anger seem to seep into all aspects of life, it is wonderful to be transported into a story where audience members are reminded that happiness can be as simple as two kinds of ice cream and knowing that someone somewhere loves you. If you are needing a good smile and a pick me up, go see You’re a Good Man ,Charlie Brown at Centerpoint.
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