A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS
Based on the television special by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson
By: Charles M. Schulz
Stage Adaptation by: Eric Schaeffer
By Special Arrangement with Arthur Whitelaw and Ruby Persson
Dallas Children's Theater
Director – K. Doug Miller
Musical Director—Adam C. Wright
Choreographer—K. Doug Miller
Scenic/Video/Props Designer –H. Bart McGeehon
Lighting Designer—Jason Lynch
Sound Designer –Marco Salinas
Costume Designer – Lyle Huchton
Charlie Brown—Christopher Curtis
Sally—Sarah Faye Beard
Pig Pen—Zachary Pletcher
Reviewed Performance 11/26/2016
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Based on the popular daily and Sunday comic strip, Peanuts, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” first aired on television in 1965. In the special, Charlie Brown finds himself depressed despite the onset of the cheerful holiday season. Lucy suggests he direct a school Christmas play, but he is both ignored and mocked by his peers. The story touches on the over commercialization and secularism of Christmas, and serves to remind viewers of the true meaning of Christmas. The special has aired continuously since 1965, and continues to provide viewers with feelings of nostalgia around the holiday season. Like other classic Christmas specials (“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”) watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has become an annual tradition in my family that my Dad started with me many years ago, and now, I have passed on to my son.
Director K. Doug Miller 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. Miller wonderfully delivers in the role of director. It is apparent that Mr. Miller took great care when directing “A Charlie Brown Christmas” for the intimate, yet traditional Proscenium theatre space at Dallas Children’s Theater. 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 as over-exaggerated “caricatures” ruins what we remember and how we feel about them. With all honesty, I can say that Mr. Miller’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.
Perhaps one of the best moment (or moments, as it happens more than once) in the production is seeing these characters come out into the audience and “ice skate.” This is something that I have noticed to be a continuous trend at Dallas Children’s Theater. It allows the audience, especially younger members of the audience to be “up close and personal” with the characters, and the world of the play. To me, there is always something magical about seeing the actors and the action of the play so close. My son and I were very impressed to see the ice skating and the high energy and enthusiasm of the company as they integrated into the audience. This provided consistent action, and the actors never missed a moment to encourage enthusiasm and interest in the story-telling of the production.
Scenic and Video designs were created by the talented H. Bart McGeehon. There were many surprises that came along with the set and overall design. The attention to detail the original television special was incredible. From the three-dimensional red Snoopy doghouse, to the most memorable and colorful one-dimensional Christmas trees in the tree lot where Charlie Brown finds his “perfect” Christmas tree and even the suggestion of drawn lines on the audience and stage floor suggested lines in the ice skating rink-the scenic design was very much inspired by Schulz’s original illustrations. I was also very impressed with the projections of the letters written to Santa by Linus, Lucy and Sally. They reminded me of the television animations. They were even executed in the same handwriting as Charles Schulz, which was fantastic. I love little details like that. As an avid reader (even now) of the old comic strips, this was something that was instantly recognizable. It really helped to solidify the allusion of the entire experience at the theater.
Costumes were designed by Lyle Huchton. Mr. Huchton designed costumes that also worked well with the scenic design. The costumes were quite different than what I was expecting. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Huchton before I saw the show, and was able to gain a little insight on the creative process, and the depth of creativity in his costume designs. As I found out in the interview, Mr. Huchton set out to “winterize” the character’s costumes, and to give each character more of a costume that would imply the story was taking place at Christmas, even though in the animated special, the characters wear short sleeve shirts, and shorts with added hats, and coats. For example, Charlie Brown’s characteristic yellow and black zig zag polo was a lovely knitted sweater, instead of the short sleeved polo. The girl’s costumes were created in a similar style to what was expected from the original illustrations, but with a creative and different touch. Mr. Huchton used period patterns and fabrics from the 1960’s that were both colorful and texturally appealing. I enjoyed seeing some of these vintage fabrics, and designs. Costumes certainly complimented the scenic designs, and gave the audience a different visual representation of each character, while still giving the appropriate homage to the original illustrations of Mr. Schulz.
Christopher Curtis was incredible in the role of Charlie Brown. Through facial expressions, mannerisms and overall delivery, Curtis convincingly portrayed “good ol’ Charlie Brown.” It was lovely to see Mr. Curtis personify Charlie Brown with such honesty. Mr. Curtis had some nice moments on stage with the ensemble. His naturalism on stage was very pleasant and enjoyable to watch, and provided an accurate representation of Charlie Brown, as we have come to expect embodied live on stage.
Another standout performance was Steph Garrett in the role of man’s best friend, Snoopy. Ms. Garrett had the vocalizations of Snoopy down to a T. Ms. Garrett was also very successful at recreating some of the animated facial expressions and movements of Snoopy. Ms. Garrett made a lot of the children in the audience laugh giving three-dimensional life to this very famous animated canine. My six year old son, Paul, very much enjoyed the scene where Snoopy is asked to play all the animals in the Christmas play. Her timing was impeccable, and her comedic delivery was fantastic. Audiences are even given a treat in the end of the performance as Snoopy comes out and is serenaded with “Snoopy’s Christmas-Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” by the entire company.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is definitely worth seeing. It is apparent to me that a lot of time, care, and love went into staging this production at Dallas Children’s Theater. This production will allow children of all ages to experience a wonderful and holiday themed production full of music, laughter and the real message of Christmas. I highly recommend seeing this production-not only will it leave you nostalgic for those holiday memories watching the original television special, but, it is a fun way to get into the holiday spirit, with the entire family. After all, “that’s what Christmas is all about.”
A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS
Dallas Children’s Theater
Dallas, Texas 75231
Plays through December 21st.
SOLD OUT SHOWS: Sat Dec 3 4:30pm & Sun Dec 4 1:30pm & 4:30 pm. Many other performances are close to selling out.
Performances are: Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 pm and 4:30 pm
Additional performances are as follows:
Friday, 12/16/16 at 7:30 pm
Tuesday, 12/20/16 at 10:00 am and 4:30 pm
Wednesday, 12/21/16 at 10:00 am and 12:30 pm
Recommended for ages 5 and up
Sensory-Friendly performance: December 3, 2016 at 1:30 PM (Phone Orders Only)
ASL performance: November 27, 2016 at 4:30 PM
The performance runs approximately one hour
For information, and to purchase tickets, please call the box office at 214-740-0051 or visit: http://tickets.dct.org