Good grief . . .
In the welcome at Centerstage! by Managing Director Angela Bayler and Artistic Director Trista Duval they were constantly interrupted by the characters we would soon meet. The actors did a great job acting like little kids doing their best to deliver messages and remind in character. Sweet.
The musical comedy You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown has been around for more than fifty years. My cousin Lavinia Moyer-Hart auditioned for three characters and had her choice of roles for a production in Castle Rock around 1970. The play is based on the comic strip Peanuts and the characters created by Charles M. Schulz. I thought I had seen the play before, but even if I had I really enjoyed seeing this production at Centerstage!, the play is a delight with all the charm and humor of the characters that never grow old . . . and they still have the same problems that affect us all: fear of trying, being lonely, and sometimes being crabby.
The staging is minimalist. Aside from a pitcher’s mound and a movable doghouse, everything else was pretty much just paint . . . and not much of that. I really loved the yellow-orange feather dusters that the actors used to signify falling leaves. Very nice.
I liked Schroeder and his piano. The piano looked real enough. Jeffry Wallace II played his part and the fake keyboard as well as making Schroeder’s own observations: “Did you know that Charlie Brown has never pitched a winning baseball game, never been able to keep a kite in the air, never won a game of checkers, and never successfully punted a football? Sometimes I marvel at his consistency.” This was Jeffry’s first time appearing at CenterStage!, but he has played many different parts before elsewhere. I would have loved to have seen him as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls.
Linus, played by Anthony Erickson, was happy to share his blanket with older sister Lucy. He looked up to Lucy and feared her as well. Anthony like Jeffry Wallace, was a first-timer performer at CenterStage! He is a graduate of Cornish College of the Arts. Lucy was played by Corissa Deverse. I loved Corissa’s pluck as the-woman-who-should-be-queen Lucy. This was also Corissa’s first time at CenterStage!. She has a number of other credits including Silly Girl at TMP (Tacoma Musical Playhouse).
When Lucy hears that she may be considered crabby, she took her own survey. Like everyone else, Charlie Brown, played by Cameron Waters, knew the correct answers to Lucy’s survey, but was also smart enough to shade the truth just enough to escape any pain. I had seen Cameron as Sammy Smalls in the Panto Rapunzel at Centerstage! He carried the show nicely and connected well with both the big kids and the little kids. He did the same with Charlie Brown. I loved his look of joy turned to despair as he was flying a kite, “Oh! What a beautiful sight! And I’m not such a clumsy guy! If I really try, I can really fly a ki . . . ” and the kite drops fifteen feet to the ground . . . and so do our spirits.
Sally Brown was played by Justine Davis, another first-timer at Centerstage!. She played a feisty Sally, but still plagued by the worries of childhood. Everyone worked well together and played off each other. I wonder if Justine has a far away look in her eyes? She spent most of her childhood in Kazakhstan, which is just a little north east of Uzbekistan. She loves improv, but has many theater credits as well.
I saw the musical Pippin on Broadway; it was a Bob Fosse production. Bob Fosse was truly a musical theater icon. With his cocked hat, jazz hands, and his wild abandon, yet perfectly controlled dance style he set the pace for choreography for generations. In Pippin the chorus wore white face and white costumes. If Bob Fosse had been a dog, he would have been Snoopy. Snoopy and the rest of the cast danced with black derbies in my favorite scene of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. “My stomach clock just went off. It’s suppertime, and Charlie Brown has forgotten to feed me.” Snoopy, played by Jake Atwood and singing “Suppertime” was pure joy. Jake like four others in the cast performed for the first time at Centerstage! as well. He has also performed at TMP as well as Seattle’s Gilbert and Sullivan Society.
For the second day in a row I brought my youngest sister’s grandson to a musical. He enjoyed both shows, but liked Charlie Brown better. We discussed the show on our way home. I think we have another play and musical fan on the way up. Keep it up Centerstage!, you’re doing an excellent job of converting people.
Charlie Brown runs through April 14th at Centerstage!. Although Centerstage! is located in Federal Way, it’s easier to think of it as Northeast Tacoma. The theater sits above Dumas Bay with a fantastic little park that overlooks Puget Sound and Vashon Island. For more information and tickets, please visit their website. – centerstagetheatre.com/