By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
The cast (clockwise) are Charlie Brown (Richard Gremel), Snoopy (Michael Martinez), Sally (Cyndi LaFrese), Lucy (Kaitlyn Fabry), Linus (Gino Cocchi) and Schroeder (Steve Wood).
The Family Theatre series at Live Theatre Workshop goes center stage this month, putting the theater's prime time spotlight on “You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown (Revised).” That revision is for additional material added to the original 1967 production for its 1999 run on Broadway.
It is important to remember that playwright Clark M. Gesner's impression of the “Peanuts” comic strip when Gesner wrote the book, music and lyics for this award-winning show was shaped by a time not yet trammeled by the worst Vietnam War protests, bitter race riots, AIDS, and extreme political polarity over abortion, gender identity and sex change operations.
Don't even start thinking about the current tremors emanating from our nation's capitol.
All of which is so say sweet innocence is what LTW is celebrating, abetted by a delightfully light-handed touch from director Samantha Cormier. Her cast of six recreates the same disarming charm that Charles M. Schultz first used to capture the nation's fancy when “Peanuts” was introduced as a newspaper comic strip on Oct. 2, 1950.
Each of us has our own personal idea of what Charlie Brown (Richard Gremel) is really like, but who ever thinks of Charlie as being tall? Yet, Gremel is the tallest cast member, which gives his Charlie an additional note of poignancy in those confrontations with Lucy Van Pelt (Kaitlyn Fabry).
Giving Linus Van Pelt with his inseparable blue blanket an extra jolt of onstage energy is red-haired Gino Cocchi. As he is written for the stage, Linus also has more of a scholarly personality, which is nice to see.
Sally Brown (Cyndi LaFrese) has her sassy quality down pat.
Steve Wood inhabits the iconic role of the dedicated musician Schroeder, pouring his soul into his piano – much to Lucy's consternation.
The equally iconic Snoopy gets a delightful reading by Michael Martinez, taking to the skies in his pursuit of the Red Baron.
Just like the comic strip, the stage adaptation is constructed in vignettes, often revolving around a musical number. In several of these, Charlie Brown keeps trying to catch the eye of the little red-haired girl.
Charlie celebrates the joys of kite flying and Linus goes through separation anxiety when Sally tries to encourage him to just let go, give independence a chance.
Other segments that have became “Peanuts” favorites over the years get a turn, such as Lucy's lemonade-type stand offering psychiatric help for five cents per session.
Mostly, though, what those in the audience receive is a warm tickle of their own nostalgia, remembering how as little kids they discovered “Peanuts” in the newspaper, then on those classic holiday TV specials...then “Peanuts” kept going while probably they became adults for awhile...but now as grandparents they can enjoy what it feels like to be a kid again.
“You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown (Revised)” continues through July 1 with performances at 7 p.m. Fridays, 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway. Tickets are $12 adults, $10 kids. For details and reservations, 327-4242, or visit livetheatreworkshop.org