Even little red-haired girls will love ‘Charlie Brown’
Story by Laurie Merrill
Photos by Travis Neely
GCU News Bureau
Charlie Brown is befuddled, Sally is mad, Schroeder is intense, Snoopy is cool and Lucy — well, Lucy is just plain Lucy.
Whether you’re a big fan of Charles M. Schulz’ Peanuts characters or just meeting them for the first time, you’re sure to find them captivating in Ethington Theatre’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” which opens today at 7:30 p.m.
Tonight’s production is sold out and tickets are selling fast for remaining shows because of the sizzle generated by the singing-and-dancing romp performed by actors whose sheer delight in playing their roles shows in every facial expression and line.
“For me, the Peanuts comic strips were a huge part of my childhood and upbringing, and for Charles M. Schulz to have kept it going for 60 years — and be able to connect generation to generation — is amazing,” said Scott Campell, the director.
“I hope that whether audience members see themselves as a Lucy, or a Sally, or Schroeder, Charlie Brown or Linus, that they feel welcome and part of the family.”
Spot-on costumes, over-the-top hair and make-up and oversized props and furniture help create the impression that these college actors are 5-year-old cartoon characters.
But it is the acting itself that completes the illusion, convincing audience members that they are watching one of the most beloved and iconic groups of 5-year-olds of all time.
“There’s magic,” said assistant director Logan Barrett. “We know they are adults, but there comes a point when you don’t realize it anymore.”
Charlie Brown (Micah Larsen), who wears a perplexed look most of the time, is clad in an oversized yellow shirt with black zigzag, a pair of shorts and suede saddle shoes.
The show’s central theme answers Charlie Brown’s question about whether he is, in fact, a good man (you can guess the final determination).
“I’m not bad, I’m not good, I’m sort of in between,” he said.
Charlie Brown is among characters who utter philosophical one-liners, such as “nothing echoes like an empty mailbox” and “I think lunchtime is the worst time of the day.”
But the show is also an uplifting spectacle filled with foot-stomping, smile-inducing musical numbers performed with endearing enthusiasm. The musicians, led by Music Director Mark Fearey, played their instruments so closely to the cartoon that they were almost like another character.
“My Blanket and Me,” a song about the attachment that Linus (Bowen Moreno) has for his blanket, is a masterpiece of musical tradition in which the blanket becomes a horse, a baton, a dance partner and a romantic figure.
“I love you, I love you, I love you,” Linus says to his blanket.
Side-slapping vignettes are also performed throughout the entertaining spectacle.
Some skits are as short as when Linus walks on the stage, looks at his thumb and says, “I think it’s losing its flavor.”
Even Snoopy (Isaac O’Farrell) has deep thoughts: “Why is it I always have my supper in the red dish and my drinking water in the yellow dish? One of these days I’m going to have my supper in the yellow dish and my drinking water in the red dish. Life’s just too short not to live it up a little.”
O’Farrell’s Snoopy depicts a brilliant fighter pilot as he sits atop the extra large red dog house-turned-plane. His arms shake as if he is in fact steering a vibrating, high-powered aircraft as he battles the Red Baron.
Sally’s rendition of “My New Philosophy” is made especially sweet by soprano Whitney Hammond, who played the character Thursday night (the part is double cast with McKenna Kollman).
Sally clenches her fists and hunches her shoulders when angry – clearly depicting a 5-year-old having a fit.
“I’m mad at everything in the whole world!” she yells in one scene.
Lucy van Pelt, played Thursday by Tarnin Bybee (the part is double cast with Ali Giordano) performs the loud, obnoxious role to a T. She stomps, declares herself queen, steals Linus’ blanket, mercilessly teases Charlie Brown and lingers over Schroeder’s piano.
At one point, she takes a survey – of herself.
“First of all I’d like to ask: On a scale of zero to one hundred, using a standard of 50 as average, 75 as above average and 90 as exceptional, where would you rate me with regards to crabbiness?”
The Peanuts characters, wearing over-sized hats and giant foam gloves, are also a baseball team – and Charlie Brown is the pitcher.
“All right, Charlie Brown, we’re all behind you — sort of!” Lucy says.
Trustin Adams, who played Schroeder on Thursday night (the part is double cast with Christian Bradford) dyed his hair bright yellow and curled it for the role.
He scowls at Lucy’s questions, and when he plays the piano, his neck burrows between his shoulders and his hands rise up as he forcefully plays.
He leads the cast in one of the show’s peppiest songs, “Beethoven Day,” which begins, “Call the principal and hand him the news. We got a holiday that he can’t refuse. A day of harmony and day of music, Beethoven’s birthday.”
Despite all the comedic setbacks, Charlie Brown learns the true meaning of happiness, and the cast sings one of the most dramatic songs of the night.
“Happiness is morning and evening, daytime and nighttime, too,” Charlie Brown sings in one stanza. “Happiness is morning and evening, daytime and nighttime, too. For happiness is anyone and anything at all that’s loved by you.”
First week: 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Second week: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24, and Saturday, Nov. 25; 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26
Director: Scott Campbell
Music Director: Mark Fearey
Scenic Designer: William Symington
Properties Designer: James Coblenz
Lighting Designer: Claude Pensis
Costume Designer: Nola Yergin
Sound Designer: Karsyn Bonora
Hair and Makeup Designer: Megan Sutton
Technical Director/Master Electrician: Steven Davis
Charlie Brown: Micah Larsen
Lucy: Tarnim Bybee, Ali Giordano
Snoopy: Isaac O’Farrell
Linus: Bowen Moreno
Schroeder: Trustin Adams, Christian Bradford
Sally: Whitney Hammond, McKenna Kollman
Woodstock: Actors take turns
Some student crew members:
Stage Manager: Andrew Weedman
Assistant stage managers: Kaitlyn Johnson, Allye Moyer and Amy Kee
Assistant Director: Logan Barrett
House Manager: Sarah Schalick
Master Carpenter: Alexandra Empey
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.