Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past sixty years or so, you are at least familiar with the existence of good ol’ Charlie Brown and his gang of pals, Linus, Lucy, Sally, and Schroeder, along with his faithful dog Snoopy and Snoopy’s quirky pal, Woodstock the indeterminate yellow bird. First published in the Fifties, the Peanuts gang has delighted children and adults ever since.
Those beloved characters are brought to life in a completely magical way by the Actors Guild of Parkersburg in their production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Under the brilliant leadership of director and musical director R. J. Lowe, who proves he’s not just a virtuoso on the stage, the entire cast, led by Josh Martin as the always downtrodden Charlie Brown, is pitch perfect. It’s as if each character has actually somehow morphed from cartoon to honest-to-goodness human being. Every part could not be more perfectly cast.
Ben Bradley as Linus excellently channels the thoughtfulness combined with deep-seated childhood insecurity that is Lucy’s beleaguered little brother. Even his dance is spot-on. Speaking of Lucy, Haley Matthews is brilliantly cranky as Ms. van Pelt. The ever-present object of her affection, Schroeder is equally well-played by C. J. Mowery. Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally, is beautifully portrayed by Tasha Spencer, who truly understands the operatic tragedy that is Sally Brown’s life. As always, Snoopy, terrifically portrayed by Shawn M. Price, threatens to steal the show. Even the ever-silent Woodstock is beautifully presented by Phillip Essenmacher, who does double duty as Linus’ blanket in a sweet, hilarious dance number.
There is really no plot to tell about in the traditional sense. Like many of the beloved animated shows starring the Peanuts, this is more a series of vignettes, hitting on all the familiar topics: baseball, depression, love, friendship, and the perils of growing up. All the scenes are simply adorable, but the two that will undoubtedly be audience favorites are the last two numbers of the show. “Suppertime”, featuring the comedic perfection of Mr. Price, is such great fun. Equally fun, though in a more heartfelt way, is “Happiness”, which features the entire cast. But, while those pieces, the best-known numbers in the show, are lovely, so is every single other element of the production. From the simple sets, made to mimic comic strip panels, to the costumes, there are just not enough kind words to use. It boils down to this: you must see it.
This show will sell out, so get your tickets while you can. It all begins this Friday, September 21 at 8:00 p.m, with subsequent evening performances on September 28, 29, and October 5 and 6. There will be a matinee at 2:30 p.m. on September 23, along with a 6:00 p.m. performance on September 30. Tickets are available by going to the Guild’s website, actors-guild.com, or by calling the box office at 304-485-1300.