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BWW Review: YOU'RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN at Imagination Stage

BWW Review: YOU'RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN at Imagination Stage
The company of Imagination Stage's production of You're a Good Man Charlie Brown. Photo by Margot Schulman.

For all the bad in this country right now, there are still things that bring us happiness and joy. The musical You're a Good Man Charlie Brown is a prime example of how innocent children and their pets can make you remember that not everything is bad in the world. How many times have we thought that Snoopy would catch the Red Baron or that Charlie Brown would win that baseball game? Yes, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown is the type of show we need to see right now to give us something to root for in this country.

If you need that dose of "Happiness," then grab the whole family and get on over to Imagination Stage and see what director and DC theatre god Aaron Posner has in store for you with his staging of this timeless musical.

All of your friends from the Peanuts comic strip are there to delight you with big musical numbers and the wit that could only come out of the mind of Charles M. Schulz. The stage version was solely written by Clark Gesner who voiced Linus on the show's original concept recording. Years later Andrew Lippa wrote additional songs for a Broadway revival, which made Kristin Chenoweth a Tony Award-winning star.

Posner doesn't reinvent the wheel with You're a Good Man Charlie Brown. He understands that people expect to see certain things before entering the theater. Because Posner is so good at what he does, he leaves the parts of the show that don't need any "improvements" alone and just lets them flow.

A few examples of this are Joe Mallon's two star turns as Snoopy. When Snoopy fights the Red Baron, it's an epic battle between good and evil that only Snoopy can have. The doghouse moves and turns to give you the idea of Snoopy flying through the air. With "Suppertime" Mallon kicks it up another notch with a jazzy vocal complete with a little help from his friends on imaginary instruments.

Another thing Posner hasn't messed with is Linus, excellently portrayed by Harrison Smith. He is still the serious one of the bunch. Who else would take a book report on that criminal Peter Rabbit so seriously? What Posner improved upon is the "My Blanket and Me" solo turn. While the number utilizes the dance break from the Broadway revival it eliminates the dancing blankets that made my eyes roll in New York.

As Charlie Brown, Christopher Michael Richardson delivers his "Lunchtime" monologue with lots and lots of heart. He epitomizes the character with whom I identify the most. How many times have we felt that we can't do anything right? I'm sure many of us have, but we never stop trying. The same can be said for Charlie Brown.

Michael J. Mainwaring's knocks it out of the park as Schroeder with "Beethoven Day," which has Schroeder rallying for a national holiday for his musical hero.

I must say that I could watch Erin Weaver's Sally over and over. To say that her rendition of "My New Philosophy" is epic would be an understatement. She also has the perfect amount of persuasiveness, go get 'em attitude, and spunk for chasing rabbits.

Last, but certainly not least, is Awa Sal Secka as a kinder and slightly gentler Lucy. For once the character isn't played screechy and sometimes even caustically. Yes, she is still enterprising (look no further than her psychiatry business), but she doesn't push people around as much. In a time where bullying is unfortunately a recurring problem for today's youth, Posner's choice is a stroke of artistic genius. Secka's love song to Schroeder (set to Moonlight Sonata) is one of her vocal highlights.

Debra Jacobson musical directed the production and also serves as the show's pianist.

Tony Thomas' choreography captures all the fun of the characters. His high energy staging for "The Baseball Game" and the title song will hold all ages mesmerized.

Nate Sinnott's comic strip-inspired set is partially comprised of huge portraits of the characters, as well as the infamous kite eating tree, a slide, and (of course) Snoopy's doghouse.

Kelsey Hunt's costumes capture the characters perfectly.

Max Doolittle's lighting is bright and colorful throughout.

Patrick Calhoun's sound design features Vince Guaraldi's original music from the TV specials for you to enjoy pre-show.

You're a Good Man Charlie Brown at Imagination Stage definitely gets a high recommendation from me and I'm sure it will get the same from you.

Good grief Charlie Brown, this show is a hit!!

Running Time: 75 minutes with no intermission for weekday performances. 90 minutes with one intermission for weekend performances.

You're a Good Man Charlie Brown runs through August 12, 2018 at Imagination Stage, which is located at 4908 Auburn Ave, Bethesda, MD.

For tickets, click here.

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From This Author Elliot Lanes

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