Kids from nine to 90 have been in love with Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip for years. What better way to appreciate Schulz’s life’s lessons so cleverly hidden among the laughs than to convert his newspaper scribblings into a classical musical comedy? And this is definitely a show to appeal to all of us. After all, we’ve all been five years old – even if some have traveled more years beyond their childhood than others. We all remember playing games like baseball, struggling with homework, singing cute ditties, swooning over crushes, and especially the joy of blossoming friendships. And that includes fun romping with our favorite pet.
The Sierra Madre Playhouse returns after a too long pandemic hiatus with its cheerful production geared for everyone in the family. In a Summer-in-the-Park setting, the theater keeps all of us safe outdoors while giving audiences a chance to enjoy live theater again. And not a moment too soon. Of course, after every evening performance, the crew must disassemble the stage and accoutrements to permit the community to use the park during the day – and then re-build it all over again for the evening performance. Only a group committed to live theater could manage this feat – with a smile.
Produced and directed by Christian Lebano – from book, music, and lyrics by Clark Gesner, additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, and additional dialog by Michael Mayer – YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN shines. The youthful, enthusiastic cast breathe life into Schulz’s iconic characters Charlie Brown (Hamilton Davis Weaver), Lucy (Mary Zastrow), Sally (Marcha Kia), Schroeder (Luke Sweeney), Linus (Melvin Biteng), and last but definitely not least Snoopy (Alexander Mashikian). The musical serves as a reminder of what life was like when we were so young, energetic, and curious as we examined the great mysteries of growing up from the perspective of unspoiled kids.
Director Lebano does a skillful job of taking us back to childhood through the eyes – and hearts – of his talented cast. And let’s not forget about musical director Sean Paxton and choreographer Palmer Davis who make the production a tuneful and impish fairytale. Nick Santiago’s scenic design, Shon Leblanc’s costumes, Derek Jones’s lighting, and the many contributions of the entire production crew add up to bringing life to these famed cartoon characters.
YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN is definitely a child friendly show – as evidenced by all the kids sitting under the stars laughing at the antics onstage. But it will also bring out the child in all of us as we flash back on “the good old days.” Besides, it’s fun sitting on the grass enjoying the warm breezes of a California summer. Congratulations, Sierra Madre Playhouse. A fitting welcome back to live theater and a job well done.
YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN runs through 9/12/21. Performances are at 7 p.m. Fridays through Sundays, as well as Thursdays on 8/12 and 8/26/21. The Sierra Madre Playhouse production performs in the Sierra Madre Memorial Park, just a couple of blocks from the theater. As an added bonus, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on all Sundays in August, there will be Family Craft Sundays in the park. For information and tickets, call 626-355-4318 or go online.
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