TOOELE — As a child, I loved to spread out the Sunday’s newspaper comic pages out in the sunshine on the living room carpet, and I would always start with reading Charles Shultz‘s Peanuts. While traditional newspapers are less common today, I have continued to share my love of the comic pages with my children. My six-year-old especially loves comics and all of the Charlie Brown movies, so she was excited to accompany me to review Tooele Valley Theatre’s production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, directed by Henry Ballesteros.
A simple set (designed by Collin Ray) that looks like it came straight out of Peanuts greets the audience. There was a low brick wall, a single cartooned tree, a bright red dog house, and (of course) Lucy’s yellow psychiatric help stand. I loved that set use a turntable to also reveal Schroder’s piano. The set was nicely colored by Chad Henwood‘s lighting design. I loved the use of lights to color the background and create the sunrise and sunset.
The opening number, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” had great energy and cleanly executed choreography (from choreographer Emily Henwood) that was fun but kept the simple feel of days gone by. The entire cast had a sound that blended together well, thanks to Cassidy Ellenberger who also created cohesive group numbers in the score by Clark Gesner and Andrew Lippa. Overall, I was impressed how cleanly put together this show was.
Charlie Brown was played by Joseph Argyle, who excelled at portraying Charlie’s self-doubt and lack of confidence. One of my favorite moments was Charlie Brown’s lunchtime monologue, as he quickly pulled his paper lunch bag off of his head. I also enjoyed his surprise and joy of his kite actually flying. Argyle did very well at making the tension on his kite string spool believable. My child was delighted by the sudden drop of his kite. I do not know if I had ever fully realized how much of a downer Charlie Brown can be at times, and I felt that Argyle was excellent at showing this element of the character,. Fortunately Charlie had his little sister Sally Brown (played by Emily Henwood) to help balance him out.
Emily Henwood was the ideal Sally Brown. She captured childhood enthusiasm, from her bright eyes and big smile, down to her knocked knees and turned-in toes. Her energy was a welcomed boost during the slowly paced spoken scenes in the script (written by Gesner, with additional dialogue by Michael Mayer). Emily Henwood’s performance of “New Philosophy” was my favorite performance of the whole show. I spend my day around multiple high energy children the same ages as the Peanuts gang, and Henwood definitely reflected the mood swings and energies of that age group. Henwood was the youthful spirit of this production, whereas many of the other characters seemed to be more like mini-adults in their speech.
Another standout performer was Michael Young as Schroeder. Although the piano music was pre-recorded, I could tell the Young was n0t a novice on the piano. He obviously had a solid music background that was ideal for his role as Schroder, both on his prop piano and in the solos he sang. Young’s voice was one of my favorites of the night, and I loved his reaction to finalizing noticing Lucy (played by Lucile Johnson) just as she ended solo “Schroeder.” He seemed genuinely shocked to find her sprawled on top of his piano.
Linus Van Pelt (played by Kaimana Sadowski) and his sister Lucy Van Pelt were the typical dueling brother and sister. Johnson was so good at being the cranky, overbearing sister, while Sadowski, despite being physically taller, the perfect intimidated little brother. I loved Linus’s intelligence and how he went along with Lucy, incorrectly telling him about things that he probably knew more about. One the way home from the show, my daughter told me that the it had taught her something: not to hit or fight. Linus and Lucy were definitely relatable to her!
Overall, I enjoyed my night out watching You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Although my daughter enjoyed herself, a lot of the humor was over her head and she lost interest at times. I would recommend this show for older children and adults. This is not a fast pace script, but the cast gave the audience an enjoyable night with laughs and meaningful thoughts. If you love theatre and the arts, then take the time to support this well-rounded and solid production.