You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
Sun. June 29 at 3 and 7:30 pm
Sweetgrass Pavilion at Wild Dunes, Isle of Palms
Charles Schulz's comic strip has found yet another incarnation in this summer's production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
The musical production, presented by the Company Company at the Circular Congregational Church, is a whimsical cascade of adolescent charm. The show ruminates on childhood dilemmas, pondering such questions as growing up and puppy love, and provides audiences young and old with a delightful time capsule into which they can sit and relax, laugh and remember the days when the backyard was as big as the entire world.
The initial reaction to this production might be to roll your eyes and demand something new — a musical that's entertaining and wholesome, but has not been performed over and over again for over 30 years.
But after watching this enthusiastic cast, after interacting with the children behind the ticket counter and the sweet old ladies stuffing programs, it becomes apparent that what this production lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in spirit and good nature.
Sure, the hard pews of the old church grew unbearable before the first half was complete. Sure, I knew that Charlie Brown would be a specimen of immaculate discomfort. But I was also sure that along the way there would plenty of laughs and room for reminiscing. With these realities firmly in place, I slipped into the make-believe world of the Peanuts, whose predicaments resonate because they are so much like our own.
The Circular Congregational Church is a lovely, appropriate stage for this production. Its expansive circumference sets the tone for the universal ordeals of childhood. As the piano strikes its first note and the percussion slivers across its cymbals, the familiar harmonies of the Schulz gang find life in the austere setting. Working with a minimal set of multi-colored blocks and a neighborhood cutout for a backdrop, the cast weaves in and out of songs and sketches, doing their best to reintroduce characters that have become part of the American psyche.
These rascals have permeated our imaginations for years. Even now, when Christmas rolls around, I find nostalgic pleasure in Charlie Brown's decades-old cartoon. Take a moment to remember the crew: brainy Linus and his ragged blanket; indecisive Charlie Brown, whose self-inquisition define him as a ringer for a future writer; shrill Lucy, who wears her heart on her sleeve for Schroeder, the Beethoven devotee; Sally, who has a moribund, blunt interpretation of her emotions; and Snoopy, that cantankerous pooch with clear logic and moody dramatics in every bark.
The cast distinguishes You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Whether exchanging dialogue or meeting in song, the young performers (most of them live and work in Charleston) bring substantial energy and pride to their interpretations.
Robbie Thomas' version of Charlie Brown is as dead-on as an adult's can be. His malleable facial expressions evoke Charlie's pain and ebullience. Elizabeth Ferraro's Lucy is coquettish and opportunistic, the overly confident girl you love to hate. And Jamie Smithson's Snoopy is a lanky, amiable rogue, doling sarcasm as naturally as a dog lifting his leg over a fire hydrant. In the end, the Company Company found comfort atop the same revered doghouse that has inspired three generations of Charlie Brown revivals.