ACT Play Review: For good advice, go see 'You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown'
First-time director and ACT acting veteran Noel Ahlers has worked a miracle transforming real live human beings into two-dimensional cartoon characters.
The sure sign that it’s the weekend are the color comics folded in the newspaper. The sure sign that it’s fall are references to the Great Pumpkin. And a sure sign of spring is an annual musical extravaganza staged by Area Community Theatre. This year’s offering of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” with book, music and lyrics by Clark Gesner, brings the comic strip “Peanuts,” by Charles M. Schulz, to life.
First-time director and ACT acting veteran Noel Ahlers has worked a miracle transforming real live human beings into two-dimensional cartoon characters. The voices, the blocking, the costumes, the singing and dancing all convey Schulz’s colorful world. They’re all here: Lucy (Kayla White), Linus (Eric Van Meter), Sally (Grace Villa-Reck), Schroeder (Gary Thury), and of course, Snoopy (Devin Carey) and the ever-suffering Charlie Brown (Tim Goldammer). A supporting cast of Cade Bruna, Laretta McPeek, Emily Rames and Laulima Russell round out the cast.
The show is a montage of character interactions much like panels in a comic strip. The longer sets with music and dance emulate the vignettes of the 25-minute animated cartoons. If you are a fan of “Peanuts,” you will see all the tropes here: the football, the psychiatric advice booth, the blanket, the baby grand piano, the Sopwith Camel and many more. Each actor embodies their character fully: morose Charlie Brown, snarky Lucy, philosophical Linus and goofy Snoopy.
Goldammer is a delight as Charlie Brown, never quite getting life right. White’s Lucy is loud, acerbic and plays to the audience for many a laugh.Van Meter is the perfect Linus, with a large helping of sensibility absent in most four-year-olds. Villa-Reck plays Sally, Charlie Brown’s little sister with just the right combination of sweetness and sour grapes.
The musical numbers include some familiars like the title number and “Suppertime,” and others that are well choreographed by White, including “My Blanket and Me, “ “Beethoven Day,” and the eponymous opening number. Orchestral accompaniment is pre-recorded but works very well.
The set is a beautiful study in color: primary tones enrobe the blocks that the characters utilize in numerous ways. The set pieces roll in and out as needed, including a terrific pink floral sofa and a cartoon version of a big yellow school bus. All the props are of a ridiculous size, ensuring that the audience never loses sight that these are children, and all things seem bigger to a child.
Ahlers has spent a year planning this production and it shows. Her attention to detail with the projected colorful skies, the toys that are replicated from the cartoon episodes; and the clothing and hairstyles that look like they just stepped out of a comics panel all evoke a sense of wonder and innocence that most of us left behind long ago.
After the performance I attended, one member of the cast said this to me: For Mother’s Day, buy your mom a memory and bring her to this show. Lucy herself could not give better advice, not for a nickel, and not for a million dollars.
The show by Area Community Theatre has performances Friday, May 12, and Saturday, May 13, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 14 at 2 p.m. at the Pepsi-cola Theatre. Tickets are on sale at the theatre or more information is available at 996-9137 or at www.mitchellact.org.