Happiness is…for a theater devotee…seeing a group of kids on stage clearly having fun while they sing, dance, and act. I couldn’t help feeling happy at Fauquier Community Theatre’s whimsical production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, featuring 24 boys and girls from ages 5 to 16.
At its heart, the show tells the story of Charlie Brown, a kid full of doubts and insecurities who just wants the little red-haired girl to notice him. First performed in 1967, the musical premiered off-Broadway with the role of Charlie Brown played by Gary Burghoff, best known for his role as Radar O’Reilly on the popular television series MASH.
Well-known from the comic strip by Charles Schulz, Charlie and his friends are looking for happiness, whether it’s Snoopy and his supper, Lucy and her quest to be queen, Schroeder and his mission to have a holiday named in Beethoven’s honor, Sally and her pursuit of a higher grade, or Linus and his love of his blanket. While there really isn’t much of a storyline, all the actors do a good job acting in the vignettes that set up either a song or a punchline. I was especially impressed at the performers’ abilities to maintain straight faces as they deliver some very funny lines.
Jonathan Fork is especially good in expressing the forlorn Charlie Brown. His facial expressions, body language, and voice inflections communicate the character’s laments and, at the same time, his hope that things will get better. Alice Yarborough has a strong sense of comic timing as she plays Charlie Brown’s nemesis, the bossy, crabby Lucy Van Pelt. Her powerful voice and her strong stage presence contribute to her portrayal of the confident—maybe even over-confident—girl who is never in doubt.
The role of Snoopy is one of the most fun roles in the show and Gracie Schwab’s exuberance makes the part her own. Whether Snoopy is waiting for his supper, fighting with the Red Baron, or singing with the Woodstock Flock, Schwab’s playful performance shines. Dylan Pierce’s Schroeder is earnest and accomplished, singing with gusto and assurance. I was especially impressed with how realistic he looked in “playing” the piano. Connor Martin as Linus is both bookish and attached to his blanket. Martin delivers the often complicated dialogue as if he just thought of it. That is no easy thing to do.
Fork, Yarborough, Pierce, and Martin are praise-worthy in “The Book Report”, a four-part song that has each of them singing their own lyrics to contrary melodies. It is one of the highlights of the evening.
Maggie Pierce plays Charlie Brown’s younger sister Sally who wants to get by in life by doing as little work as possible. Maggie excels in the song, “My New Philosophy” where she considers new philosophies such as “Who cares?, Why me?, and “How should I know?”
I want to give a big shout to the members of the ensemble; they add a great deal to the show’s success. They stay in character and add an extra quality with their singing and dancing. The ensemble includes Kathleen Matthews (Peppermint Patty), Emily Marshall (Marcie), Sierra Ayler (Loretta), Juliana Rodgers (Freda), Ana Perrius (Peggy Jean), Alan Pierce (5), Meadow Batchelder (Patty), Emily Markley (Violet) (she is a great hopper as Rabbit), Hollis Martin (Pig Pen, Sherise Ayler (Molly Volly), Grant Colgen (Ray), and Gavin Pierce (Rerun).
The final and youngest group of performers is the Woodstock Flock, an adorable flock of yellow-winged birds. Despite their age, the flock—Reilly Tanner, Aurora Perrius, Aibhinn Perrius, Anjoli Johnston, Catherine Richards, and Lizzie Pierce—are working hard to remember the lyrics to the songs and what they’re supposed to do.
Led by Stage Manager Hilary Pierce (who also serves as the show’s Music Director), the stage crew has a big challenge in getting the many set pieces moved throughout the show. Kudos to the crew. Kudos too to the folks responsible for costumes, sets, props, hair and makeup, sound and lighting. The show has a professional look just right for the comic book setting. Laurie Bersack on the piano keeps things moving at a good pace and director Christie Clark deserves a standing ovation for doing such a good job to get good performances from so many young actors.
Happiness truly is watching children and youth, sing, dance, and enjoy the opportunity to be act. Congratulations to the Fauquier Community Theatre for a fine production.
Running Time: Two and a half hours, with one intermission.