Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2017 by Tony Annicone
Studio Theatre Company’s current offering is “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown,” running this weekend; Friday through Sunday at Saint Anne’s Frat, Guild Street, Fall River.
Based on the well-loved Charles M. Schultz comic strip, “Peanuts,” You’re A Good Man brings to life all your favorite comic strip characters – in full, living color. With a cast consisting of, Roger Machado-Fournier playing the title role – Charlie Brown, Erin Cote as Lucy Van Pelt, Nishan Lawton as Linus Van Pelt, Stefani Lawton as Sally Brown, Stefanie Bonalewicz-Lafontaine as Snoopy, Joe Nelson as Schroeder, and with a surprise cameo, the adorable Connor Lafontaine appearing as Woodstock.
This show is a feel-good compilation of short vignettes, one-liners, and wonderful songs; featuring the unique and entertaining personalities of these five year-old Peanuts characters. And of course, focusing on poor, darling Charlie Brown, and his unrequited love for the pretty red-haired girl, who is always just out of his reach, not unlike most everything else he sets out to do.
Directed by Machado-Fournier, the ensemble cast moves with exact precision and the blocking is simple but effective for the space. And speaking of the space; don’t let anyone tell you that can’t do a musical unless you’re on a proscenium stage with heavy velvet curtains. Machado-Fournier shows off his creativity with his clever use of space, utilizing a simple set, and lighting. The intimacy of the space adds to the experience of the show, and I was impressed with the presentation.
Music direction was done by Kara Wilkinson, who brought out the best in her cast, with tight harmonies and precise solos.
Set design and construction was done by Rich Machado. Simple, but effective and reminiscent of the actual Peanuts strip, the set was perfect for the space and added just the right dimension to the overall picture.
Roger Machado-Fournier delivers a heart-touching performance as our favorite hard luck kid. As Roger sings The Kite, we really root for that kite to get off the ground – torn between watching his soulful rendition, and watching to see if his kite will really get off the ground, Roger pours his soul into his performance, and this reviewer forgets to watch the kite, instead focusing on a great performance. Playing Charlie Brown’s bratty little sister, Sally Brown, is Stefani Lawton. Stefani has channeled her inner child, and lassoed that little girl right onto the stage. Never breaking her 5 year-old persona, Stefani alternates between adorable and loveable, and downright impetuous. Showing off her striking soprano chops, Stefani soars in her solo, My New Philosophy.
We hear Joe Nelson’s fierce voice as Schroeder, in his feature number, Beethoven Day. With Joe’s pure pitch leading the group number, the result is a joyous, soulful show-stopper.
In the role of Lucy Van Pelt, Erin Cote alternates between the little girl smitten with Schroeder, and Miss Crabby-Pants. She loves her man, Schroeder – and she doles out psychiatric help for just 5 cents per session. As Schroeder informs her, she’s a crabby girl. So, Lucy decides to conduct a survey to see what the other Peanuts kids think. The verdict is clear. She’s crabby! And Lucy learns that self-awareness is the first step in self-improvement. With a clear and beautiful soprano voice, Erin sings, The Doctor Is In, as well as her love song, Schroeder.
In the role of Snoopy is Stefanie Bonalewicz-Lafontaine. Stefanie plays the sassy puppy to a tee. Snoopy is a dog with lots of attitude, and we see this through Stefanie’s facial expressions (because… well … dogs don’t talk!) and especially in the show-stopper, Suppertime. As Charlie Brown laments, “Why must suppertime be a production number?!” Snoopy raises an eyebrow, wiggles her butt, and proceeds to perform just that – a production number!
Rounding out the cast is Nishan Lawton in the role of the thumb-sucking, blanket-hugging Linus Van Pelt. Obviously attached to both his thumb, and his blanket, Nishan captures the essence of Linus with his little-boyish mannerisms, and coyness. In his feature number, My Blanket And Me, Nishan shows off his vocal skills, and his acting chops.
The entire show was a pleasant walk down memory lane, to a simpler time when reading the daily Peanuts strip provided a smile. However, this reviewer’s favorite moment was The Glee Club Rehearsal (sung to Home On The Range) when all the kids are practicing their number, under the direction of Schroeder. Simple, right? Except, as kids do, they are all distracted by their respective issues, and chaos ensues. Seriously. I had flashbacks of middle school chorus, when the exact same thing happened. It was a laugh-out-loud moment for me!
So, for a family-friendly nice night of live theater be sure to check out You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, this weekend only at Saint Anne’s Frat. You’ll be glad you did!
Footlights Repertory Co., Inc.