BY KYLE VAN DEN HEUVEL
This fall, local theater production group Birder Studio has been putting on shows of Clark Gesner’s ”You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” As the title suggests, it is a musical based on Charles M. Schultz’s “Peanuts” series of comics. It takes several strips and converts them into song. Many of the famous scenes from the strip, such as Lucy’s “Doctor is In” stand and Snoopy’s “Red Baron” daydream, make it into the play; if you are familiar with the strips, you should be familiar with the content of the play.
Since it seems to be based on earlier strips, the on-stage characters are limited to a handful of characters. It was odd to see these characters portrayed by adults, but I eventually got used to it. Chad Lemerande played Charlie Brown pretty well and had his mannerisms down pat. Tim Olenjniczak also played his character of Linus Van Pelt very well. Jon Weiss played his character of Schroder fairly well, but it was hard to tell the character by sight; however, Schroder is a bland character to begin with, so it is not a fault of the actor. Sally Brown was played by Amanda Rose Abbeglen, who managed to get the characters quirks down very well. April Rose Strom-Johnson portrayed Lucy as best as one could on stage. Finally, Sallie Harrigan’s Snoopy had all the energy and quirkiness that the character demands. All of these actors and actresses acted very well and some of them even teach at Birder Studio.
If there was anything I would complain about, it is on a nitpicky “Peanuts” aficionado level. Most of the characters’ costumes were right in form, but most of them had the colors wrong. It is not a real flaw in the long run, but it is jarring as a longtime “Peanuts” fan. There was also a fair bit of over-selling in terms of line delivery by some actors, but it’s made for families and lines were over-sold in the original source material, so it’s acceptable.
Those complaints aside, I did enjoy the performance overall. My favorite songs in the play were “My Blanket and Me,” in which Linus and company dance with anthropomorphized blankets and the final song “Happiness” that put a nice end to the play. The production used the location of the Dudley Birder Hall to their advantage by having a song “The Kite” take place using the upper balcony and the hallway that goes down the middle of the former church. If I could define the play in one word, I would say it was “cute.” The production might not be the level of something on Broadway, but the production proved that they have some skills behind it. Even if it wasn’t the highest level of production, Birder Studio’s ability to deliver quality and “cute” prove that this studio should be around for a long time.