By Robert Digitale
The Red Baron, the little red-haired girl, the 5-cent psychiatry booth, the kite-eating tree, the longest losing streak in baseball.
If you like the humor and story telling of Charles Schulz, you’re bound to enjoy “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” the latest production of Sonoma State University Theater Arts. The show combines the late cartoonist’s multi-faceted comic streak with a cast that ably embodies the stars of the “Peanuts” comic strip.
Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the musical by Clark Gesner. That in itself is reason enough to give the play a second look, especially for those in Sonoma County, where Schulz lived for four decades. Though he died in 2000, the cartoonist’s mark remains. We still have the many Peanuts statues around Santa Rosa, his beloved Redwood Ice Arena, the Charles M. Schulz Museum and the Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport.
Schulz succeeded by making his child characters say the darnedest things, sometimes in ways far more sophisticated than their ages, sometimes with good old wackiness. This show offers both kinds of humor. Linus defends his security blanket by comparing it to the hobbies adult males have. Sally bemoans the “Shakespearean tragedy” she endures. In contrast, Lucy tells Linus to behold Charlie Brown for an excellent example of “a failure face.” And Charlie Brown takes desperate measures to hide himself at the thought that the adorable little red-haired girl might be looking at him.
Noah Evans makes a fine Charlie Brown. Just don’t expect a round-headed kid. Instead, Evans uses stork-like legs, slumped shoulders and turned-in arms to project a endearing protagonists who has never been good at anything. His strong voice helped anchor such catchy tunes as “Happiness” and “The Book Report” (on Peter Rabbit).
Evans and cast members Anna Leach and Emily Rice had the most opportunities for physical humor. Leach as Lucy was in full extension mode while posing longingly over Schroeder’s piano. And Rice as Snoopy got to twitch for laughs and tap dance with her supper bowl.
In this small cast all the members had time to shine, including Mathew Adiao (Linus) trying to give up his blanket, Hailey Patrick (Sally) describing her new philosophy and Brando Matel (Schroeder) calling for the celebration of Beethoven’s birthday.
The set by Michael Smith includes few pieces: Snoopy’s red doghouse, a stone wall, some clouds and trees. But those items and the backdrop are displayed in vivid colors with black outlines, making it feel as if we’re watching the action inside the Sunday comics.
Kudos to stage director Doyle Ott, music director Lynne Morrow and the polished six-piece orchestra.
The production at the Evert B. Person Theatre continues through Feb. 11 at the university’s Evert B. Person Theatre. For tickets and showtimes, click here.
Next up is William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” which runs March 14-31.
Emily Rice, (Snoopy), Noah Evans (Charlie Brown) and Mathew Adiao (Linus). Photo by Bill Zemanek.