Friday, January 25, 2013

REVIEW: "Good Grief" Skyview High School's "Charlie Brown" Feels Good!

"You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" the musical, based on the Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schulz, runs THIS WEEKEND ONLY at Skyview High School, 1300 NW 139th St., Vancouver, Wash.

The Skyview show is the third production I've seen of "Charlie Brown" and the second time I've reviewed it for this blog.

I include these few comments from the former review:

Laura McDonnell as Lucy and Colin Smith as Charlie Brown
"Somehow, as a 1970s high school theater geek, I acquired an LP of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” and played it repeatedly while singing along to the title track, My Blanket and Me, Happiness, Suppertime and the show’s other catchy songs... [T]hat was before it was re-envisioned in the 1999 Broadway revival...with a few new songs and a character swap (Sally for Patty) the show [certainly has a different quality to it]. [However, I] can’t say I ever really loved the show for more than its music. It’s quirky and silly and lacks a through story. Still, if you’re a fan of the Peanuts gang comic strip, you will probably like the show for its strip style vignettes."

It's been a long time since I saw the 1967 original and, honestly, I cannot now decide which version I like better. Last year I saw the the 1999 version directed by Tony Bump with an adult cast. I won't compare the two on those merits, however, I will say that it is nice to see the show performed by a youthful cast (though it was fun seeing adults play kids, too).

The Characters

A dress rehearsal with incomplete backdrop
This high school production was deftly directed by Philip Denton (who likened it to a parade). It featured a fine ensemble and the cast was a joy to watch. While the young cast didn't quite push it to where it needed to be--a little more kid-like energy on the part of the men, though they were good, would have gone a long way to improve the performance as a whole. The women, on the other hand, were very good.

That said, I truly enjoyed all the cast performances. The ensemble includes: Nathan Harris as Schroeder, Kennedy Marvin as Patty (not Peppermint Patty), Laura McDonnell as Lucy, Spencer Reid-Rice as Linus, Thomas Silk as Snoopy and Colin Smith in the lead role of Charlie Brown. Marvin and McDonnell--both with excellent singing voices, expressive faces and exceptional delivery--were standouts.

All cast members sang well, especially in the well-harmonized chorus numbers. Smith did slip from the melody from time to time during his solos, but it might have been nerves. With some training and confidence he will shine as a vocalist. He very much reminded me of my late high school friend (the exceptional actor, Steve Catt, in looks and mannerism). Silk made for a very smooth Snoop-dog; his rendition of Suppertime was certainly the showstopper.

The Setting

The cast of Skyview's "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown"
The set consisted of primary-colored construction paper polygons, bound by wide black boarders, that wrapped from the back wall onto the stage floor suggesting cartoon panels. It was simple, cheap and effective. The lighting design consisted of amber down and side lights, daylight blue key and fill, and some white front lighting. It, too, was effective, though at times was not quite bright enough for a musical. Costumes were nice.

The setting was quite interesting as well. Rather than use the auditorium seating area (which is quite large) the seating was on the stage, with audience members on risers close to the action. Which meant only 80 seats, but created an intimate feel. Audience members in the front row, beware (it can get personal).

"Charlie Brown" is a happy, feel-good musical for the whole family and I do recommend that you see this production. Remaining shows are: 7 p.m., January 25 and; 2 and 7 p.m., January 26. General admission is $5. What a deal! Tickets are available at the door on a first come basis.

By Gregory E. Zschomler
Photographs provided.

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