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‘Charlie Brown’ appeals to kids, fans of cartoon

Charlie Brown has never pitched a winning baseball game, never been able to keep a kite in the air, never won a game of checkers, and never successfully punted a football, Schroeder (Jeff Ekberg) soliloquizes as the stage is set for ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.’
‘Sometimes I marvel at his consistency,’ the piano prodigy says.
Through a series of humorous vignettes, the character of Charlie Brown (Cole Duffy), his sister Sally (Cole’s real-life sister, Summer Duffy), his dog Snoopy (Kevin Horton) and several close friends are revealed during Charlie’s search for confidence at Hayswood Theatre in Corydon.
‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’ debuted in 1967 after producers asked composer Clark Gesner to turn his album of songs featuring the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip character into a stage show.
A Tony Award-winning revival in 1999 updated the humor of the production and replaced Peppermint Patty with Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally ‘ a role for which Broadway performer Kristin Chenoweth won Best Featured Actress.
The play is popular in amateur theater, largely because of the small cast and basic set. The six thespians charged with bringing ‘Charlie’ to life in Corydon are a balanced, talented group with previous experience in musicals, which is a good thing because they frequently break into song during the production.
While most children will probably become absorbed in the show, the prosaic score isn’t likely to entertain many adults. However, those familiar with the animated ‘Peanuts’ cartoons should enjoy rediscovering Charles Schulz’s brand of humor enough for some laughing out loud.
Lucy (Emily Fields) leans on Schroeder’s piano as he pounds out Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata.’ As Lucy explores the idea of her and Schroeder’s marriage, the grade-school-aged musician shrinks behind his instrument until finally only his hands are visible.
Schulz’s juxtapositions result in some of his most successful humor: Schroeder’s unlikely fascination with Beethoven; the ominous sonata as backdrop to the topic of marriage; school children executing complex rhetorical devices.
The juxtapositions are a little more difficult to deliver with a cast of 20-somethings. The stage Linus (Michael Snelling), for example, loses some of the comedic edge granted to his blanket-stroking, thumb-sucking, animated child-philosopher counterpart simply by not being six.
Ultimately, reliving the best moments make this show worthwhile for fans of the cartoons, and children will likely enjoy it whether they are familiar with the show or not. Adults unfamiliar with the cartoons probably won’t find much entertainment in ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.’
This production lacks any substantial story arc and ends abruptly with only a similarly insubstantial resolution. It’s not so much a stand-alone tale as a tribute to ‘Peanuts.’ In that role, it’s reasonably successful.
The cast is strong and, while no one lags, Summer Duffy’s comedic delivery and vocal performances are particularly strong.
‘Charlie’ was directed by Matthew Hayes, a 24-year-old North Harrison High School graduate. It’s his first effort at directing a full-length play.
‘Charlie Brown’ shows again Friday night at 8, and will be given Saturday night at 8 and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for senior citizens and children under 12. For reservations, call Magdalena’s Restaurant at 738-8075.

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