By Sara Dudley Brown, Theatre Editor
Do we really need yet another version of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”? Yes, if it’s done the way Imagination Stage stages it! I saw the original version of “Charlie Brown” in the late 60’s in Hershey, Pa., of all places. It was so charming and had such catchy music; I sought out the cast recording and learned every song! Loved it! Still do! It was first produced in 1967, then again with lots of revisions in 1999 when it made a star of Kristin Chenoweth.
Aaron Posner, the brilliant director of this show, has taken another careful look at “Charlie Brown”, trimmed it down a bit for children’s attention spans, and fashioned it into one tightly packed act. He has kept the best bits which will make adults and children happy when they see this show! Plus, the casting is spot on, and these actors can sing–alone, and in glorious harmony! The set by Nate Sinnott is delightfully colorful and the individual pieces are so big you won’t be able to take your eyes off them. Snoopy’s handsome dog house doubles as his Sopwith Camel as he is fighting that awful German, the Red Baron, in his Fokker triplane, and it’s his bed when he’s just lazing around waiting impatiently for his supper dish! Supper dish??? Snoopy can’t just eat like a normal dog, you’ll discover. He has to make a really big PRODUCTION NUMBER out of his dinner time. And Joe Mallon, as Snoopy, brings it home in his big number.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The cohesive, star-studded cast is superb and Erin Weaver, whom I loved as Alice in Imagination Stage’s “Wonderland: Alice’s Rock and Roll Adventure”, is back in fine form in a brittle and hilarious take on Sally. Awa Sal Secka sparkles and shows off her vocal chops as Lucy, but when she’s doling out advice, as she is often want to do, well, you should listen with a grain of salt, as they say. She’s hilarious! And Charlie Brown, played with great self-effacement by Christopher Michael Richardson, also sings his songs very appealingly. Schroeder (Michael J. Mainwaring) and Linus (Harrison Smith) round out the entirely likeable cast.
The brightly colored costumes by Kelsey Hunt are adorable, extremely child friendly and great for play! They need to be because Tony Thomas, the choreographer, keeps the Peanuts gang frantically dancing, marching, and running up and down a slide (sometimes with a blanket) while dispatching their words of wisdom and working through their angst as best they can. The music underscoring all this activity is ably provided by Deborah Jacobson at the piano with assists from the cast on various instruments.
All in all, it’s a delightful show and it’s especially nice because you and your children or grandchildren will get to meet or revisit those adorable, loveable Peanuts’ characters. Charlie Brown, it turns out, really is a “Good Man”! Boom.
Performance and Ticket Information:
Weekday performances now through August 12 at 10:30 am; Performances on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 and 4:00 pm; Tickets are $10+; Best for Ages 5 and up. For Tickets: Call 301-280-1660. Running time is about 1 hour 10 minutes with no intermission. Imagination Stage is located at 4908 Auburn Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814.