Take 12 energetic and talented college students put them in Charles Shultz's beloved "Peanuts" comic strip, add music and make the storyline a day in the life of Charlie Brown. Combine these ingredients together with an outstanding student director, his dilligent musical director, choreographer and crew members and you have the latest Rhode Island College musical, "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown".
Director Jimmy Calitri, also a multitalented actor, makes this show sparkle and shine with his inventive direction. He has a brilliant eye for many comic bits to liven things up. His cast is superb in their singing, acting and dancing. Jimmy adds extra characters to this 1999 version of the show.(Frieda, Marcie, Pig-Pen, Woodstock, Little red-haired girl and Peppermint Patty changed from the old character of Patty) The character of Sally Brown is in the new show with a Tony award song. Jimmy has the performers capture the exuberance of small children and they pull it off without a hitch. Musical director Lila Kane adds to the excellence of the evening with her assisant Esther Zabinski leading the cast in difficult muscial numbers like the title song, "The Book Report" (sung by the quartet and acted out by the rest of the cast) and "The Baseball Song". They are performed so easily by this young cast you would swear they are many years older than they really are. Student choreographer Beckley Andrews dance instruction in the group numbers(title number and Baseball song) is excellent and she makes the cast look good while executing them. The Blanket dance, "I Don't Know Now" and the "Suppertime" tap dance numbers are standouts, too. Brad Verdi's multicolored lighting of the scrim especially the sky and Laurea Osborne's colorful costumes complete the comicstrip atmosphere the show needs. Bravo on a job well done.
You need a strong leading actor to pull off the role of Charlie Brown to make him likeable to the audience. College junior, Matt Smith does a magnificent job as the much abused Charlie Brown. The facial expressions on his face are perfect displaying the various emotions of hurt, sadness, longing and eventual happiness. Matt displays the character's physical humor doing pratfalls, being stepped on, flying his kite and putting his head in the lunch bag. He also shows the character's yearning for things to be better in the future and the day ends brightly for him and his friends in "Happiness". Whether acting, singing or dancing,Matt never wavers in his characterization of Charlie Brown.He is always on. Matt is an actor who has a bright future in show business.
Every bit Matt's equal is the spitfire actress playing Lucy, Nicole Gemma. Her command of the stage is beautiful as she browbeats Linus, Snoopy, Schroeder and everyone else in sight. She is a whirlwind of talent. The "Schroeder" number is hysterically funny while singing "Moonlight Sonata", Nicole crawls on the piano then falls off it without missing a note. Her relationship with her brother during the Queen skit and the crabiness survey shows her versatility as an actress when Nicole shows Lucy's warm side to Linus while ranting and raving before hand. "The Dr. Is In" with Charlie Brown and the "I Don't Know Now" number with 4 girls and Snoopy are other laugh out loud moments provided by this young actress. The counting of the words and vegetables in the Peter Rabbit song is another comic gem. Great job.
Another scene stealer is Jim Carroll as Snoopy. His comic timing and facial expressions are outstanding especially the mixing of a drink during the crabbiness scene and in his solo numbers. Jim's singing and tap dancing to "Suppertime" like an old time vaudevillian is another feather in his cap. This man sell his songs and his lines with ease especially in when he wants to bite someone in the "Snoopy" song, the oneliner type dialogue to the audience and in the Red Baron scene while he's shooting down the triplane from World War I.Keep your eye on this talented young man. Snoopy's sidekick Woodstock is played by young Hannah Van Meter. She is a hoot whether stealing noopy's bone, crash landing into the doghouse, scratching his stomach and trying to join in a song with Snoopy and the girls. A young girl who acts with the college crowd and does a good job while doing it.
Lucy's younger brother, Linus is played by Dominique Doiron who has a fantastic tenor voice. His philosphical asides to Lucy and the others is delivered wonderfully. Dominique also gets to show off his dancing skills with Casey Harkness in "My Blanket and Me" song. He first dances with the real blanket and then Casey becomes the dancing blanket. Dominique handles both the comic and poignant moments wonderfully especially the kneeknocking scene when the blanket is washed, his sucking his thumb and his pratfall when he's punched by Lucy as well as when hecomforts her after she discovers she is a very crabby person.
Lucky Rattan plays the henpecked boyfriend of Lucy, Schroeder. He shows his acting strength when he finally tells Lucy off in the survey scene. Lucky also stands out in the "Home on the Range" scene conducting the song, in "The Book Report" describing Robin Hood while the others act it out and in the newly written duet with Sally, he storms offstage. Great job.
Angela Williams plays the newly created role of Sally Brown. She makes Sally a strong girl who knows her own mind. She's in love with Linus and wants him to take her to the movie, she's upset by getting a D on her hanger design at school and she finally decides to create her own philosopy by disagreeing with everyone. Angela blossoms when she's onstage. She makes Sally shine especially her "My New Philosophy" number by belting it to the rafters. Angela also handles the comic aspect of her role with ease especially in the rabbit chasing scene with Snoopy done to the Mission Impossible theme. She also picks a member of the audience as her captured rabbit. (I was caught in the big rabbit net on review night) A real life minister who is an acting dynamo, too.
Rounding out this talented cast are the comic duo of Peppermint Patty (Joanna Scoggins who does an excellent job on her solo to Charlie Brown, 'Poor,Sweet Baby", a ballad as she throws him around while singing) and Marcie (Laura Desmarais) as well as Allison Angelone who plays the curly haired Frieda and Charlie Brown's love, the little red-haired girl and Donna Lobello as Pig-Pen. Joanna and Laura are hilarious in their roles and the vocal delivery of their lines is perfect. Allison sits in the audience as the red head giving funny asides to people. Donna in dirty face has two funny bits as she makes a cloud of dust and she wipes her nose pickings on crabby Lucy. All 4 girls also sing well in the group numbers and the "I Don't Know Now" song.
So all fans of Charlie Brown and the "Peanuts" gang run do not walk to catch this show at Rhode Island College in their new Helen Forman Theatre to see talented young performers at their best.