REVIEW — It has been roughly 20 years since I saw “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” on stage. I was in high school, and even though it’s been awhile – like a really long, long while – I still remember the delight I felt watching Charles M. Schulz’s beloved “Peanuts” characters portrayed on stage.
That same delight came readily back to me as I visited Brigham’s Playhouse for their production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” The 1967 musical comedy is weighted with nostalgia – and not just for me as I walk down memory lane approaching my 20th high school reunion. After all, Charlie Brown and his gang of friends have entered the living rooms of generations of fans.
It was particularly exciting for me to share this production with two of my own children, some of the youngest generation (8 and 5 years old). I am a firm believer in exposing my kids to the arts early and often, though that sometimes is fraught with worry about their behavior after hours of sitting.
“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” has a small cast of only six players whose duty it is to fill the stage and keep their energy up for the duration of the show. Fulfilling that duty is no easy feat, but the cast was more than able to rise to the challenge. All six actors stayed true to their characters throughout, even when it was not their turn at the forefront of the action.
The story of the musical is told in small vignettes as if it were a comic strip come to life, and I must admit it took me a minute to get into the flow of the production. But once it got going, it was hard for me to get the silly grin off my face.
At the end of 2016 I was able to attend and review St. George Musical Theater’s production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Their rendition of the comic strip characters was cast entirely with children, which had a very whimsical yet slightly more realistic effect as the characters are meant to be young kids.
Conversely Brigham’s Playhouse’s cast for “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” is all adults. This casting provides an extra comedic element watching grown actors fight over pencils, suck their thumbs, get mad at jump ropes and fret over book reports.
Because the cast is so small and each member receives pretty equal stage time, it was hard to pick a favorite. Marshall McConkie (Charlie Brown), Lori Olsen (Sally Brown), Anna Beck (Lucy Van Pelt), Mason Hardy (Linus Van Pelt), Stockton Meyers (Schroeder) and Doug Knapp (Snoopy) all did a strong job of commanding the stage and showcasing their characters.
My two children picked Lucy and Linus as their favorite characters, and I suspect this was because the sibling rivalry portrayed on stage resonated with them. Perhaps a little too much.
Watch for a fun scene with Hardy (Linus) and the blanket Linus made famous. This was a scene that hit close to home and had me revisiting my youth again, as I too used to be attached to a blanket that went everywhere with me. Too much information?
One of the standouts for me and decidedly one of the best voices in the cast was Knapp (Snoopy). I really enjoyed the way Knapp played the lovable pooch Snoopy with a real sense of mischievousness. Snoopy was at once affable and annoying, lethargic and wild, dog-like and so very un-dog-like. The costuming for Snoopy featured his famous black and white colors but steered clear of any real indication that he was, in fact, a dog. I liked it.
Memories really abounded in this show for many reasons, not the least being Olsen (Sally) herself. As Charlie Brown’s younger sister, Olsen she was sheer magic on stage, easily capturing the essence of a sulking child in one scene and seamlessly juxtaposing it with the maturity and language of an adult in the next.
But it was Olsen’s familiar face and mannerisms throughout the show that had me wondering how I knew her. As it turns out, Olsen and I went to high school together. Once we figured that out, a whole host of memories came back to me. She was in musical theater back then too, though not in the production of Charlie Brown.
It thrilled me to know Olsen is still doing something she clearly loves and is so good at.
Other notable scenes included “The Doctor is In,” featuring Beck (Lucy) and McConkie (Charlie), and “The Book Report,” one of my favorites in which Schroeder, Lucy, Linus and Charlie Brown all have to write a book report on “Peter Rabbit.”
General hilarity ensues as McConkie expertly captures Charlie Brown’s neurosis, Hardy’s thumb-sucking Linus proves to be an insufferable know-it-all, Stockton does vocal gymnastics as Schroeder attempting to make a comparison between Peter Rabbit and Robin Hood and Beck’s Lucy famously writes “Peter Rabbit is a stupid book about a stupid rabbit who steals vegetables from other people’s gardens.”
Brigham’s Playhouse is small and intimate, which works especially well with a story like Charlie Brown where the cast is minimal. But there was plenty of stage magic, including clever set design and good use of special effects and props. The colors and costuming helped transport the audience into Charlie Brown’s world.
My two young children got hot and tired and thirsty and asked to go home toward the end, but they made it through and enjoyed the story. To me, that’s what happiness is. Of course, the delicious concessions offered at the show – including more than two kinds of ice cream – probably helped.
My 8-year-old even had each of the cast members sign his playbill after the production. These are memories we will cherish forever.
Brigham’s Playhouse strives to be a family-friendly environment, but children under 5 are not permitted in the theater.
“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. through July 15. There are also Saturday matinees at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $17-$23 and can be purchased online or at the box office.
- What: Brigham’s Playhouse’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
- When: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m.; and Saturdays at 2 p.m. through July 15.
- Where: Brigham’s Playhouse, 25 N. 300 West, Washington City.
- Cost: $17-$23.
- Purchase tickets: Online or at the box office.
- Additional information: Concessions are sold at before the show and during intermission. Children under 5 are not permitted.
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