There was fun aplenty in this weekend’s concluding performances of the Montgomery College production of Clark Gesner’s lighthearted musical, “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Based, of course, on the characters of Charles Schulz’ famed comic strip, “Peanuts,” the long-running Broadway musical was certainly an entertainment that could be rightly called, “fun for the whole family.” This edition featured an enthusiastic cast of six from a variety of local high schools as these young actors took the summertime opportunity to try their theatrical wings on the college stage.
Director, Chase Waites, did an excellent job of guiding his performers in capturing the innocent and delightful spirit of the Schulz characters. The show was at its best in the little short vignettes that seemed to have clearly been pulled from episodes in the original strip, and these actors seemed to be having as much fun as the audience during the translation. It pleased me that the distracting “face mikes” that performers have worn as microphones in recent years, have been replaced here by very inconspicuous units that were barely visible and created no audible static. That is the good news for sound designer, Cooper McClain. The bad news was that the sound was not always balanced between lead singers, back-up singers, and the orchestra in the pit (nicely conducted by music director, David McKenery). This sometimes made it difficult to hear everything. On a happier note, the theatre now offers listening devices for the hearing handicapped. While I am blessed with good hearing myself, I tried out one of the units during Act II and found it most helpful in clarifying muddy sound passages in the audio.
In the role of Charlie Brown, recent TWHS graduate, James Canfield, provided a cheerful performance as sunny as Charlie’s bright yellow sweater. He projects Charlie’s delightful optimism sweetly during the show’s opening number, the title tune, and with continued voice study, Canfield may find himself performing in more musicals when he heads to St. Louis University this fall. While the set designs of Ross Brighten were as minimal as the drawings of Mr. Schulz, the lighting designs of Mr. Waites offered some relief on the perhaps too bare stage and back wall. Macy Perrone’s gay costumes were very much those depicted in the comic. The occasional choreography, developed by the performers themselves, was unremarkable.
With screeching voice and amusing body language, Meredith Tyler served up a feisty and very “crabby” Lucy that was great fun to watch. When vocalizing, she opted for an overly shrill characterization of Lucy and lost some of the sweetness of the songs. I sensed there was probably a nice singing voice there that I would like to have heard. Chris Canal, of The Woodlands College Park High School, offered a solid performance as the very musical, Beethoven-loving, Schroeder, and he seemed to relish every moment on the stage. His acrobatic back flip and moon walk were well done, and with further training, his singing voice shows promise. Oakridge H.S. senior, Kris Watkins, brings to life the blanket hugging, Linus, who while sucking his thumb laments, “I’m afraid I’m losing my flavor!” When projecting well, Watkins displayed a fine voice for dialogue, but at times he seemed to be singing in an uncomfortable key beyond his range. Never the less, he was another who showed potential as a singer. Megan Trom gave us a sassy Sally who does not appreciate teachers that give mediocre grades. She prefers to grade the teachers on ability to transmit their knowledge to her. In Act II, pairing with Mr. Canal, Trom reminded me a bit of the young Betty Hutton as she showed her vocal potential in a feisty rendition of “My New Philosophy.”
A highlight of the production was the performance of Erin Wasmund as the easy-going dog, Snoopy. With her vocal experience (professional voice training with Tom McKinney), Wasmund’s fine singing set a high standard the remaining cast has not yet attained. I only wish she had more opportunities to sing in this piece. Had all the youngsters in this show reached her level of vocal skill, this would have been a more musically pleasing rendition of a very pleasant score. But that shortcoming did not prevent the audience from having a very good time.
Montgomery College has announced the following productions for the coming season: Home Front by James Duff (October 2007), Actor’s Workshop (Nov. 2007 / Feb. 2008), Noises Off by Michael Frayn (April 2008), and The Great American Trailer Park Musical (July 2008). For season tickets or information contact Amy Cooper at 936-273-7021 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
(The Courier 7.15.07)