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Review: Charlie Brown gets new life through song

By Autumn D. F. Hopkins

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A cast of six young adults at The Alban Arts & Conference Center is reviving Clark Gesner's 1967 musical adaptation of the Peanuts comic through lively song.

The play, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," is a composite of small vignettes from Charles Schulz' original comics, but with some added dialogue and a lot of catchy little tunes.

The show at The Alban is an excellent rendition of the classic.

The play is performed with live music, and the orchestra stays on the stage the entire show, which is fantastic.

Daniel Calwell portrays Charlie Brown -- both earnest and depressed -- and is much like the original character.

Calwell is an excellent actor with a great stage presence (most recently seen in The Alban's production of "Wind in the Willows"), but at times his character delves darker than what the audience would expect of Charlie Brown. Though, he's just as endearingly pitiful.

In his ever-diligent pursuit of "the little redhead girl," Calwell constantly attempts to gain her attention, and consistently fails.

Unsure what to do with her attention once he receives it, he is charmingly awkward. In one scene, he sits on a bench at school with his lunch sack over his head, ineffectually hiding from her gaze.

That is the essence of Charlie Brown.

Lucy, played by Hannah Ström, is absolutely overbearing, but isn't that her charm? After being called "crabby" by her crush - the musical prodigy, Schroeder, played by Clayton Spry - she proceeds to survey the rest of the cast about her level of her "crabbiness."

She bullies her loveable blanket-dragging brother Linus, played by Brandon Hawkins, into his honest opinion of her crabbiness on a scale of one to 100. After he hesitantly answers "95," she slugs him. It is classic.

Hawkins does a wonderful job as an overgrown version of the blanket/cape-wearing philosopher. In one adorable scene, he dances about in an almost romantic ode to his beloved rag.

Snoopy, played by Haley Lambert, is boisterous and imaginative. At times, the character is slightly too aggressive and talks more than I remember from the films, but Lambert's grasp of physical comedy is flawless for someone her age.

Her solo and dance number, "Suppertime," was an absolute treat. She leapt all over the stage doing The Charleston and "jazz-paws" Bob Fosse could be proud of.

She should be given kudos just for being able to move about in a full-bodied dog costume, let alone dance an entire number.

The play is missing several of my favorite characters, namely Marcie, Pig-Pen and Sally.

Patty, played by Anna Felty, was a little too sweet with out her foil.

Felty did a great job delivering the character's airhead lines, but without the grisly dry wit of Marcie, she is just another ditz with a pretty face. Although I must say, Felty has a lovely voice and did an excellent job on the ensemble numbers.

"You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" shows today and Saturday, as well as next weekend starting at 8 p.m.

On Sundays, the show starts at 2:00 p.m.

It's a great family-friendly show with an adorable cast and memorable music. Don't miss it.

Reach Autumn D.F. Hopkins at autumn.hopkins@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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