CHILTON, Wis. (WFRV) – The joke is Charlie Brown can’t understand why Snoopy, his pooch, makes such a big production out of supper. Snoopy dances all around with joy.
In regular versions of the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” Snoopy is joined by six other characters. They sing and dance up a storm in a whoop-dee-doo merry romp.
In the Calumet County Community Theatre version, Snoopy’s “Suppertime” excitement is doubled. The show has been around since 1967, and chances are no other production among thousands has done this delightful deed – a BIG production number. Director Larry Marcus double-cast the show and added a marvelous touch. A youth cast and adult cast take turns being featured in the six performances in Engler Center for the Performing Arts in Chilton High School… except everybody has to show up for each performance for exceptional scenes like “Suppertime” en masse. And the finale has all 15 performers joining in for an extra-full rendition of “Happiness.” It’s a nifty touch.
Performances started Thursday night with the youth cast featured. After seeing many versions with adults, I wanted to see if there would be any differences with young people. There are. Young voices, nimble footwork and youthful features are physical things, but a high school age cast like this one creates a sensibility closer to the kids Charles M. Schulz introduced to the comic strip public in 1950. It’s a temporary thing – time being time.
This youth cast also has abundant talent as individuals grab hold of their characters and make them vivid. They start with Charlie = flop, Lucy = crab, Linus = smart, Sally = shifty, Schroeder = classicized, Snoopy = childlike and fill in the personalities.
The production is technically elaborate, and it runs smoothly. The live music, choreography, costuming, lights, backdrops, props and wireless headsets add up to a real deal that feels good after long months of COVID-19 clampdowns.
“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” is told mostly in vignettes, as if brief episodes of a comic strip. Fourteen times, songs emerge that sometimes include dance. Everything turns around childhood, which in the case of Charles M. Schulz, is filled with kid experiences and thoughts and adventure and melancholy and family and humor and a general sense of warmth.
This and that from the production:
+ Emma Annis draws immediate attention with her look as Snoopy. In keeping with her bright white costume is special white face make-up.
+ Voices are interesting. Cortney Piepenburg crackles as Lucy, and Pamela Siech sizzles as Sally – the both adding an edge to their character. In song, Emma Annis is a kind of an alto that’s her own.
+ Auggie Knaus wraps into Charlie Brown, going through life with clouds around his soul and hoping for sunshine.
+ In an early scene with a faux toy piano, Alex Bowe so well tunes into the fingering of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” that it seems like he really is creating the sound. It’s really John Tengowski performing in the pit. Bravo.
+ Hayden Bailey captures the whiz-kid aura of Linus, plus unleashes nimbleness in Linus’s showcase “My Blanket and Me” production number.
+ From the first notes, the little orchestra is on as it offers wonderful support to what’s happening on stage with a cast that’s on, too.
+ The production is sweet overall, with inventiveness adding specialness to the appeal.
What has been missing in the past 16 months by the lack of live, in-person performance is well-represented in Calumet County Community Theatre’s production. It breathes life.
Creative: Based on the comic strip “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz; music and lyrics – Clark Gesner; book – Gesner and original 1967 cast; director – Larry Marcus; music director – John Tengowski; choreographer – Jenie Farrell; technical director – Brady Kees; stage manager and props master – Cassie Raquet; graphic designer – Chelsey Burke; set construction – Cassie Raquet, Jill Bailey, David Bailey, Cara Steiner, Seth Bailey, Kira Bailey; stage crew – Cara Steiner, Jill Bailey, Miranda Lorenz; tech crew – Kory Karls, Brody Waldron, Ethan Lorenz; costumers – Jeanne Keuler, Mary Grace Langenfeld, Donna Lee, Deb Wenig, Julie Raquet, Jill Bailey, Kira Bailey
Running time: One hour, 50 minutes
Remaining performances: Adult cast: 7 p.m. July 9; 7 p.m. July 15; 1 p.m. July 17. Youth cast: 1 p.m. July 10; 7 p.m. July 16
Program: Digital, available in the auditorium via app
Charlie Brown – Auggie Knaus
Lucy – Cortney Piepenburg
Snoopy – Emma Annis
Sally – Pamela Siech
Linus – Hayden Bailey
Schroeder – Alex Bowe
Peppermint Patty – Ellie Fuerbringer
Marcie – Maggie Krueger
Charlie Brown – Tim Marsh
Lucy – Becky Marcus
Snoopy – Emilee-Elizabeth Maney
Sally – Lindsay Rick
Linus – Hayden Bailey
Schroeder – Brad Leonhardt
Peppermint Patty – Elizabeth Plotka-Heinen
Marcie – Katelin Keck
Musicians: Conductor/keyboard – John Tengowski; violin – Lily Montes; reeds – Richard Tengowski; acoustic/electric bass – William DeBlaey; percussion – Philip Buchman
“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” – Charlie Brown, Company
“Schroeder” – Lucy (sung over Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”)
“Snoopy” – Snoopy
“My Blanket and Me” – Linus and Company
“The Kite” – Charlie Brown
“The Doctor is In” – Lucy and Charlie Brown
“Beethoven Day” – Schroeder and Company
“The Book Report” – Linus, Lucy, Schroeder and Charlie Brown
“My New Philosophy” – Sally and Schroeder
“T-E-A-M (The Baseball Game)” – Charlie Brown and Company
“Glee Club Rehearsal” – Company (sung over “Home on the Range”)
“Little Known Facts” – Lucy with Charlie Brown and Snoopy
“Suppertime” – Snoopy with Charlie Brown and Company
“Happiness” – Company”
THE VENUE: Located at 530 W. Main St. in Chilton, the 735-seat Engler Center for the Performing Arts opened in Chilton High School in the 2003-2004 school year. The space has an open, airy aura. Central is the large proscenium (flat-front stage) with a dark blue curtain. Shades of dark blue are echoed in the seating fabric and wall panels. Six sets of wood ceiling tiles – some rectangles, some squares – are spread across the ceiling for acoustical purposes. The auditorium floor is concrete, with leaf-pattern carpeting along walking lanes. On side walls, wood beams set apart paneling that is dark blue on the sides and blood red in the rear, with the lower portion of side walls a geometric pattern of cement blocks that are painted in a shade reminiscent of dark wood. Outside this showcase space is a spacious lobby/commons.
THE PEOPLE: The families of Michael and Kathleen Engler and William and Gail Engler, Jr. provided the key funding for the theater through the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, Inc. Name associated with the Englers: Kaytee and its products for pets.