Critic At Large WeAreGreenBay

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown' Zesty in Clintonville

Phoenix Players

CLINTONVILLE, Wis. (WFRV) - ***

Photo caption: The “Peanuts” character Snoopy is prominent in stuffed toys, books and other items in a lobby display related to the Phoenix Players’ production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” The display is the creation of Amanda Hein, who portrays Snoopy in the show. (Warren Gerds photo)

***

The giddy laughter of a child rose from the audience Friday night as a grown man playing the child Linus hugged a blanket as he romped and sang.

Another generation was heard from as a show played out the humor of Charles M. Schulz’s ever-enjoyable “Peanuts” comic strip transformed to musical theater.

The man was so into being Linus that the child couldn’t hold back.

Everybody in the cast leaps into his or her role in the Phoenix Players production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” the community troupe’s third show in its brief history.

The eagerness is the mark of the production that continues for five more performances to Dec. 9 in The 1918 Auditorium of Rexford-Longfellow Elementary School. The cast also performed twice Thursday for schoolchildren.

The players sell their parts.

When Lucy surveys her friends and brother about her crabbiness, you know she’s CRABBY.

When Sally dreams up her definitive philosophy, you know it’s definitely going to change.

When Charlie Brown walks under another cloud in his life, you know it’s going to rain on him.

Linus dances joyously with his beloved blanket.

Schroeder har-umps about his blessed Beethoven.

And Snoopy... The remarkable pooch takes on the World War I flying ace The Red Baron in battle and also generates a production number, as dogs tend to do, about that great event – supper!

Director Brandon Byng, who plays Charlie Brown, is surrounded by an experienced cast (counting karaoke in one case). Confidence is part of the aura.

The show includes short scenes, much like a daily dose of a comic strip. Some scenes are longer, much like stuff from the Sunday newspaper. Songs add to the characters’ color.

This and that from the production:

+ A projected backdrop designed by Byng changes with scenes. The images are as if they are from “Peanuts.” Images sometimes include animation, such as The Red Baron’s airplane in flight.

+ The set piece of Snoopy’s doghouse is especially well built. That’s important because Amanda Hein, as Snoopy, dances atop the house as part of her performance.

+ Hein daringly jumps from the stage and launches onto her knees in the center aisle in true big-sell SHOWBIZ fashion as part of “Suppertime.”

+ Adults playing children can be off-putting without the right touch. This cast has the touch, a certain disregard of self-conciousness.

+ Just like the “Peanuts” comic strip, the show is funny, thoughtful and filled with smiling takes on kids being kids.

***

Creative: Based on the comic strip “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz; book, music and lyrics – Clark Gesner, with additional dialogue by Michael Mayer and additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa; director – Brandon Byng; producer – Mary-Beth Kuester; vocal coach/rehearsal pianist – Tara Huber; stage manager/props master – Ashley Borman; lighting technician – Caitlin Huber; spotlight technician – Thayer Fietsch; sound technician – Caroline Kauth; microphone technician – Zeke Fietsch; scenery projection technician – Trenton Laack; set construction – Ben Huber; scenery projection design – Brandon Byng

Cast:

Charlie Brown – Brandon Byng

Sally Brown – Tara Huber

Lucy Van Pelt – Maribeth Weidner

Linus Van Pelt – Ben Huber

Schroeder – Michael Locke

Snoopy – Amanda Hein

Running time: One hour, 55 minutes

Remaining performances: 7 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 1 p.m. Dec. 2, 7 p.m. Dec. 7-8 and 1 p.m. Dec. 9

Info: phoenixplayerswi.com.

***

Songs (recorded music)

Act I

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” – Company

“After Lunch Hour” – Charlie Brown, Sally, Snoopy, Linus

“Schroeder” – Lucy (sung over Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”)

“Snoopy” – Snoopy with Sally and Lucy

“My Blanket and Me” – Linus and Company

“Queen Lucy – Melodrama” – Lucy

“The Kite” – Charlie Brown

“The Doctor is In” – Lucy and Charlie Brown

“Beethoven Day” – Schroeder and Company

“The Book Report” – Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, Charlie Brown with Sally and Snoopy

Act II

“The Red Barron – Melodrama” – Snoopy with (offstage) Lucy

“My New Philosophy” – Sally with Schroeder

“The Baseball Game” – Charlie Brown and Company

“Glee Club Rehearsal” – Company (sung over “Home on the Range”)

“Little Known Facts” – Lucy with Linus and Charlie Brown

“Suppertime” – Snoopy with Company

“Happiness” – Company

***

VENUE: The 1918 Auditorium is part of the Rexford-Longfellow Elementary School building at 10 Eighth St. in Clintonville. Entered by way of various sets of staircases, the auditorium is like a large, cream-colored box with some notable architectural features. Capitals on columns, being blue and geometric with a hybrid white oval in the middle, seem to defy the classical Roman forms. The capitals may be one of a kind. The auditorium contains 444 seats, which are of aqua fabric seating areas, with wood arms and plastic backs. The proscenium stage includes dark green curtains, with a beveled white structure at the top surrounding a fringe curtain with “C” at the center (probably for Clintonville). Light fixtures hanging from the ceiling appear to be original; in each, eight lightbulbs in a botanical design form a circle surrounding a larger light fixture. For “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” the stage that is raised about three feet above the seating floor includes extensions on the front, bringing the action closer to the audience. In May 2018, the school was added to the State Register of Historic Places by the Wisconsin State Historical Society. Mary-Beth Kuester of Clintonville and her sister, Kay Doran of Antigo, were instrumental in the process. The architectural firm of Parkinson and Dockendorff designed the oldest part of the building in Collegiate Gothic style often present in educational buildings in the 1910s through 1930s.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays. My latest book, “I Fell Out of a Tree in Fresno (and other writing adventures),” is available in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum and Bosse’s.


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