YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWNBased on the comic strip “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz, Book by John Gordon
Music and Lyrics by Clark Gesner
Director – Neale Whitmore
Musical Director—Shane Hurst
Choreographer—Christian O’Neill Houston
Scenic Designer –Patrick S. O’Neil
Lighting Designer—Alex Ammons, Neale Whitmore
Sound Designer – Neale Whitmore
Costume Designer – Deborah Jaskolka
Snoopy—Shelby Mae Ramsey
Charlie Brown—Jermaine Lobaugh
Reviewed Performance: 11/1/2015
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Told with very little consistent plot, “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” is told in a style of vignettes that are strung together, with themes and ideas that are introduced in the illustrated comic strip. I had never seen “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” before, and it was exactly what I was expecting. I enjoyed seeing the scene by scene vignettes. It very much reminded me of my early experiences of reading the daily, as well as the Sunday editions of Peanuts’ and their recurring storylines. It provided a nice bit of nostalgia for me.
Director Neale Whitmore brought together an ensemble cast who were synced and worked well together. The cast, who collaborated with a design crew that intricately knit together scenery, sound and costumes, enhanced the story being told by these familiar characters. Mr. Whitmore wonderfully delivers in the role of director. It is apparent that Mr. Whitmore took great care when directing “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” for the intimate black box theatre space at Frisco Community Theatre. Each one of these loveable characters was exactly what I would expect to see if these cartoon characters came to life, and where embodied by human actors on stage. The characters were portrayed with such naturalism, and contained quite a bit of the child-like innocence and whimsy conveyed in the original comic strip. Often times, I feel that when real-life actors portray the characters that have been engrained in our culture, the temptation to play them over-exaggerated or over-the-top ruins what we remember and how we feel about these fictional characters. With all honesty, I can say that Mr. Whitmore’s concept and vision of this production certainly delivers. I especially enjoyed seeing some lovely stage pictures and tableaus which were very reminiscent of seeing panel by panel drawings of the original comic strip.
Sets were designed by Patrick S. O’Neil. There were many surprises that came along with the set and overall design. The attention to detail the original comic strip was incredible. From the three-dimensional red Snoopy doghouse, to the larger than life back porch, the scenic design was very much inspired by Schulz’s original illustrations. I was most impressed with the giant doorway that was the backdoor (and large mailbox) to Charlie Brown’s house. By providing these large structures, the audience was assuredly convinced that these adult actors looked like the 5-6 year old Peanuts characters that we have come to know and love. I also enjoyed seeing Charlie Brown successfully fly a kite (if only for a short amount of time). As someone who has worked in many different sizes of theaters, I know how difficult it can be to work in a small space. Mr. O’Neil took the intimacy of this black box, and took audiences straight into the world of the Peanuts characters. It was delightful (and quite a treat) to be very “up close and personal” with his scenic designs. I was taken right into the world of Charlie Brown, Lucy, and Snoopy.
Sound was designed by Director, Neale Whitmore. I cannot tell you how pleasurable it was to enter the performance space, and be greeted by the sounds of the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Guaraldi was responsible for composing music for seventeen of the Peanuts’ television and one full-length feature film before his death in 1976. I very much enjoyed hearing the album, “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” with the quintessential underscoring music of “Linus and Lucy,” and “Pebble Beach”-one of my favorite songs from this album. It was also a nice touch to see saxophonist, Allison Suding come out during the intermission and play “Christmastime is Here,” then be chastised by Lucy for starting Christmas music early- after all, it was “just Halloween” the day before. This provided some nice interaction between the characters and the musicians for the audience to see. I felt that this added a little depth of humor to the performance, as many of us are familiar with A Charlie Brown Christmas. “Christmastime is Here” is another one of those instantly recognizable songs from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I have always felt that the selected music for a production really helps to transport the audience into the world of the play. As an audiophile, I was very satisfied with the selection of music, and homage to the Vince Guaraldi Trio, selected by Mr. Whitmore.
Costumes were designed by Deborah Jaskolka. Ms. Jaskolka designed costumes that also worked well with the scenic design. The costumes were very appropriate to the story, and were also very reminiscent to the comic strip. Jaskolka did a phenomenal job of collaborating with the other areas of design, and created a visually pleasing, and accurate depiction of the Peanuts’ characters. From Charlie Brown’s yellow and black zigzag polo, to Lucy Van Pelt’s starchy blue dress with a large bow, all the costumes were visually appealing, and were everything that I would expect to see a production that was based on an earlier selection of work. It must be a difficult task to reproduce costumes or apparel of previously established characters-while adding a touch of uniqueness, and a sense of originality. Ms. Jaskolka was successful in both of these aspects, and absolutely delivers in the role of costume designer.
Jermaine Lobaugh was incredible in the role of Charlie Brown. Through facial expressions, mannerisms and overall delivery, Lobaugh convincingly portrayed “good ol’ Charlie Brown.” It was lovely to see Mr. Lobaugh personify Charlie Brown with such honesty. I really had forgotten how sad his character really was during of the course of the storylines. Mr. Lobaugh had some nice moments on stage alone (his ‘Lunch’ monologue was a standout moment for his dual portrayal of humorous and sad). He also had some very nice chemistry with the rest of the ensemble. As this was my first time to see “Charlie Brown,” I can honestly say that I was very impressed with Mr. Lobaugh’s performance. He was the epitome of what I would expect from an actor portraying Charlie Brown.
Another standout performance was Rachel Robertson, in the role of the loveable, but, bossy know-it-all, Lucy Van Pelt. Lucy is probably one of my favorite Peanuts’ characters. Growing up through the years, I always remember getting a chuckle out of Lucy’s antics and adventures in the comic strip. She was always the one who seemed the most adult to me, and Rachel Robertson portrays Lucy to the T in this production. She nails facial expressions, line delivery, and belts out number after number in the truest “Lucy” fashion. Her naturalism on stage was very pleasant and enjoyable to watch.
“You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” is definitely worth seeing. The meticulous and care for detail is evident in all aspects of the production, and makes for a wonderful experience at the theater. This production will delight the young, and the young-at-heart. I highly recommend seeing this production, not only will it leave you nostalgic for more of ‘good ol’ Charlie Brown,’ but, you will also have an experience that will be appropriate for all audiences-and these days, there seem to be fewer and fewer occasions for everyone to enjoy. You’d be a “blockhead” if you missed this production.
Frisco Community Theatre
Black Box Theater in the Frisco Discovery Center, 8004 North Dallas Parkway, Suite 200
Frisco, Texas 75034
Plays through November 15. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:30pm. Please note: Sunday Matinee performance on November 8 is sold out. Extra Matinee performance on Saturday, November 14 at 2:30pm.
Ticket prices are as follows:
Evening shows are $22.00, Matinee shows are $21.00.
$2.00 discount for Seniors age 60+
Students and Military $14.00 for all performances.
($1.50 per ticket charge if paying with credit card).