By GARY GRIFFIN
Poor Charlie Brown! He just cannot get even a little bit of respect!
Animated or live, it makes no difference. Charlie Brown was born to be dissed, it seems!
At least, however, his anxieties about Christmas are eased after hearing his friend Linus give him the true meaning behind the holiday. Bearing his ever-present security blanket on his head (like a shepherd’s cowl), Linus quotes the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” hit the stage at the Ritz Theater Thursday for opening night … and it stayed true to the TV version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in every respect (best this play critic could tell, anyway)! It’s just like the age-old television special! From the opening scene where the kids are ice-skating to the sounds of “Christmas Time Is Here” to the closing where the kids decorated Charlie Brown’s wimpy little tree … the only difference is these are live human actors.
Linus (Logan Harris) even looks like the real Linus, Charlie Brown (Christopher Kuhbander) exclaims “Good Grief!” and”Aughhh!” often (just as he does in the comic strip) and Rhianna Herrin steals the show as Lucy Van Pelt. Her interactions with Schroeder (Anthony Diaz), Charlie Brown and other members of the “Peanuts” gang give the show some good “spark.”
Others in the cast include Allie Dunaway, Neely Thomas, Emma Varnes, Rhett Herrin, Marin Jeffords, David Bazemore, Sami Jo Kuhbander, Stevie Howell, Cayd Batchelor and Hana Hitt.
A major attraction of the “Charlie Brown” experience is the keyboard accompaniment to all the action on stage by pianist Cyndi Etheridge.
The set is quite good … simple and spartan, just as the TV version is. There’s Snoopy’s doghouse .. and Charlie Brown’s mailbox (sans Christmas cards), Lucy’s “The Doctor is In” kiosk and Schroeder’s piano. Keeping things “elegantly simple” (and sweet) is the brevity of the show. Including a 15-minute intermission, the whole thing is only 50 minutes from Mamie Jackson’s director’s speech to curtain call.
The show continues tonight and Saturday (8 p.m.) and Sunday (2:30 p.m.). Then there are 8 p.m. performances Thursday-Saturday next week.
Working behind the scenes of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” are Kayla Dixon, Jonathan Daniell, Roger Johnson, Nancy Arrington, David White and Pam Fields.
About 50 were in the audience for opening night. It’s reported that 100 reservations have been made for the Sunday matinee. Call 283-2161 to make reservations to see “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
By GARY GRIFFIN