Theatre Mirror Reviews - "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown"

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entire contents copyright 2010 by Tony Annicone

"You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at the Stadium Theatre by Encore Repertory Company is the 1999 revival version of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" which is based on Charles Shultz's beloved "Peanuts" comic strip. The revival opened on February 5, 1999 and made a star out of Kristen Chenoweth, winning her the Tony Award for best featured actress playing the role of Sally Brown. The show takes us through an average day in the life of Charlie Brown. The audience catches glimpses of their favorite characters and includes many moments from the days of his life from Valentine's Day to baseball season, from wild optimism to utter despair. They include all his friends, both human and non-human, and strung together on the string of a single day, from bright uncertain morning to hopeful, starlit evening. Director Jonathan Brennan infuses this show with high energy from his multitalented 11 member cast while music director Alex Tirrell not only plays the keyboards but taught the glorious music and soaring harmonies to the cast and Sara Norman supplies the topnotch choreography which combined together gives the wonderful finishing touches to a fantastic evening of family entertainment.

Jon directs the show wonderfully with his inventive blocking and keen eye for comic situations. He casts all the roles beautifully and he sets the show in 1963. I directed him when he was seven years old in "Three Pills in a Bottle" at the Jewish Community Center in 1990. Alex not only leads a five piece orchestra but plays lead keyboards and taught the cast the beautiful harmonies, making them sound topnotch. Sara's dances are seen in the opening number, the blanket song, the Beethoven song, the baseball song and "Suppertime". Leading this cast is Ryan Leverone as Charlie Brown. He is a terrific performer who captures the essence of the character with wonderful facial expressions to display his various emotions of hurt, disappointment, longing and eventual happiness. Ryan's comic side shines through in the lunch scene with the lunch bag on his head, in the kite scene when it flies away and his interactions with Snoopy and the other characters in the show. He shows off his marvelous voice in solo moments which include his jazz section in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown", "The Kite'', "The Doctor Is In", "The Book Report" and "The Baseball Song". Lucy is excellently played by Alura Plante who is a cute brunette. She is very comical in the "Schroeder" song, she sings to him about marriage while he plays "The Moonlight Sonata". Alura also shines in the Crabbiness survey and the Queen segment, too. Her counting of the words in the Peter Rabbit book report song is hilarious as is "The Doctor Is In" with Ryan and "Little Known Facts" while giving Linus the craziest explanation that snow falls up and hitting your head on the bark of trees makes them grow faster which makes Charlie Brown bang his head with his frustration at her crazy explanations. I reviewed her back in 2001 when she played one of the children in "The King & I" at Theatre-by-the-Sea>

One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Dominque Doiron as Snoopy. I reviewed him in this show when he was a student at RIC in 2000 and he played Linus, I also reviewed him as Bobby in "Company", too. His tenor voice is magnificent and his dog costume is a hoot. Dominque's comic timing and facial expressions are outstanding in all his vignettes especially in the crabbiness survey when he gives Lucy thumbs down plus a raspberry. He stops the show with "Suppertime" while doing a soft shoe with top hat and is also hilarious in "Snoopy" song when he wants to bite someone and in the "Red Baron" monologue when he climbs on top of his doghouse to shoot the World War 1 Fokker triplane out of the sky while a black and white video of the real Red Baron plays in the background. Hannah Schott plays the role of Sally Brown and is marvelous. She makes Sally a strong girl who knows her own mind and demands that Snoopy help her hunt rabbits. She and Dominque dance to various songs during the chase and at one point they run through the audience. Another funny moment is when she gets a D on her hanger design at school and creates a philosophy of her own to disagree with everyone. Hannah sounds like Kristen Chenoweth and her "My New Philosophy" number stops the show with her fantastic voice. She also sings "Home on the Range" with the chorus after Linus calls her an enigma.

Brian Lopes plays Schroeder wonderfully. He not only gets to sing the lead in "Home on the Range" but in the newly created revival show song called "Beethoven's Day" where he wants the principal to declare a new holiday. It is a rock song with bits of Beethoven music interspersed in it. Brian scat sings in the Beethoven number while he and the cast do a jazz dance to it. He also sings a section of "New Philosophy" with Hannah and the Robin Hood section of the "Book Report". Zach McGrath plays Linus marvelously. He does a fantastic tango and polka with his blanket in "My Blanket and Me", sings the philosophical section of the "Book Report" and is very funny in the Queen scene with Lucy when she punches him in the stomach. He also has a poignant moment with her at the end of the crabbiness scene. Other characters include Patty- Tara Feeley, Violet-Katie Miller who I reviewed as Jo Jo in Seussical 5 years ago,Freida- Alexandra Dutremble who I directed in "My Song Lady" in 2005, Brettny St. Peter as Lucinda and the Little red-headed girl and Michael Martins as Pig Pen. They add their beautiful singing voices and wonderful dancing to this show. The whole cast sings the poignant "Happiness" which leaves tears in your eyes. So for a rousing rendition of the beloved characters from the Peanuts comic strip be sure to catch "You're a Good Man,Charlie Brown". It brings back many happy memories when I first directed this show in 1979.

"You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" (1 & 2 May)
@ Stadium Theatre, 28 Monument Square, WOONSOCKET RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide