You’re a Good Show, “Charlie Brown”

It’s been around for years, and will doubtless be around for many more. So if you missed the recent run of Masquerade Theatre’s delightful production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” keep your eyes peeled for some future opportunity to see the popular Charles Schultz comic strip come to musical life on the stage. And when you do, be sure to bring along the kids. They’re going to love it as much as you will.

Phillip Duggins directs the Masquerade production, with book, music, and lyrics by Clark M. Gesner. The talented cast featured Sam Brown as optimistic Charlie, Rebekah Dahl as cranky Lucy, Luther Chakurin as blanket-hugging Linus, Beth Hempen as sassy Sally, Dominic Di Felice as the Beethoven-loving pianist, Schroeder, and scene-stealer, Braden Hunt, as the loveable dog, Snoopy. At curtain time, Russell Freeman’s dramatic silhouette lighting revealed the actors positioned across the stage. Each was standing below a colorful picture of his or her character, and then the fun began with the fine singing and effervescent dancing of the full company during the show’s title tune.

While the show’s cute songs are not especially memorable, what followed was a series of adorable vignette-style episodes that very much had the feel of being plucked from the pages of the well-known comic strip. The full-voiced Mr. Brown gives us a very likable characterization of the luckless Charlie, who dreams endlessly of winning the heart of the “redheaded girl” that we never see. Miss Hempen’s amusing portrayal gives us an indignant Sally who is always outraged about something, especially the low marks the teacher tends to give her. In the role of Schroeder, Mr. Di Felice is a writhing riot, delivering Beethoven on the eighty-eight with his undulating body so hunched over the very baby grand (floor level) piano that we cannot even see his face. The popular Miss Dahl was perfect as the mean-spirited, sarcastic and whiny-voiced, Lucy. Lucy dreams of one day becoming Queen, and seems to have an unkind word for everybody until she takes a survey to discover whether she has been correctly described as “cranky.” Meanwhile, Mr. Chakurian has great fun portraying thumb-sucking Linus. (By the way, Linus is worried that his thumb might be “losing its flavor!”) There were times when Chakurian’s “baby talk” mutterings were less than audible, but his “My Blanket and Me” was one of the most adorable musical numbers. Linus could also offer bits of wisdom, as when depressed Charlie hopefully proposes that “Tomorrow will be a better day.” Linus counters that, “In some parts of the world tomorrow is already today. If tomorrow is today, there is no way tomorrow will be a better day!”

Clearly a highlight of the show was the performance of Hunt as Snoopy. Rarely have I seen an actor have such infectious fun with a role, and the audience loved every minute of it. This was especially true of the many children that were happily in attendance at this Sunday matinee, and everyone roared when Snoopy lifted his leg on the mailbox post. This Snoopy is lovable one minute, and fierce as the Cowardly Lion the next and Mr. Hunt also brought a particularly fine singing voice to his triumph. His jazzy “Suppertime” number was a showstopper. Here’s hoping we can keep this talent in Houston!

As word spreads, audiences continue to grow at Masquerade’s lovely new home in Hobby Center’s Zilkha Hall. (Visit www.MasqueradeTheatre.com for details on the coming season). But there were still some seats available last Sunday. I can assure you of one thing. If Houston area parents knew how much fun was being had by the children in Zilkha Hall last Sunday afternoon, scalpers could have sold any seat for a hundred dollars. Of course the great appeal of Schulz’ comic strip is that we have all come across characters and situations like the ones he describes. Who cannot recall having to write a school report with “one hundred words,” and stretching it with something like “This is the very, very, very end of my report?” Well, let me paraphrase that:

This is the very, very, very end of my review.

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About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the Lambs Club, he is also editor of The Lambs' Script. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic@earthlink.net.
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