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You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown at Bellingham Theatre Guild

Happiness Is by Sandy Hornlocker

The Bellingham Theatre Guild’s 86th Season opener is “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.” The play is based on the Peanuts comic strip produced by Charles Schultz from 1950 to 2000, with music and lyrics written by Clark Gesner. It was first staged off-Broadway in 1967, and had a short one-year run on the Great White Way.

Everyone still loves Peanuts. Smart and funny, quick and clever, this show has more staying power than Rugrats and South Park combined.

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The first time I saw this show I was in high school. The year was 1973, which also happens to be the year director Michelle Kriz was born. Yes, I am old, don’t judge me. The ageless irony and humor that has sustained this musical for over 45 years is deftly captured by Kriz’ creative vision, assisted by more-than-able Heidi Sackerson. What I have come to appreciate most about Kriz when she directs is that her audiences will be presented with something unexpected or surprising, yet familiar and always entertaining.

From the opening number just sit back and enjoy the ride watching these well-known and loved characters, running off and on stage, singing, dancing, regaling us with the World According to Schultz. Charlie Brown is played by Jeremy Loween, the Charlie Brown-i-est Charlie Brown I have ever seen. Charlie’s little sister Sally is embodied by Cary Thomas, who shines when she delivers the funniest and most powerful one-two punch in response to her hanger project for art class. Schroeder is played by TJ Anderson who is always fun to watch on stage, and hearing him sing is always a gift. Les Campbell is Linus, who dances and sings to his blanket so sweetly, it’s as if we are interrupting a private moment. Zoe Bronstein is self-proclaimed Queen and super crabby Lucy, who dominates the second act with a flourish. I loved her as the big sister the most during her rendition of “Little Known Facts.” Thomas Beirne’s credible howl as Snoopy is so enchanting, if I wasn’t allergic to dogs, I might consider getting one, just hoping it could howl as plaintively.

Music Director Steve Barnes never disappoints, and with John Bisceglia and Alex Roemmele, he rounds out his band of three. Barnes consistently brings musicians to the table who, even though they are together for just a short time, produce a tight sound. The choreography was fun and confident, kudos to choreographer Michelle VanLeuwen Ahrens.

Campbell, a man of many hats, designed and painted the set to look just like the Sunday paper opened to the funny pages. He is also the artist behind the projected graphics that appear on the back wall to punctuate the action. Genny Cohn, costumer extraordinaire, has worked her magic.

Lit expertly by Ryan Goelzenleuchter with Dee Dee O’Connor’s assistance and Alan Peet Ballyhoo-ing (making the spotlight dance in figure 8’s on the stage) with the best of them. They are are a stunning backdrop to the on-stage action.

All of the on-off-who’s-in-who’s-out action of the comic strip keeps moving without a hitch, thanks to stage manager Brittany Sterling.

Kriz and company have created this live-action cartoon strip for your complete pleasure on the BTG stage, appropriate for audiences from 4 to 104. Don’t miss your chance to see your favorite characters come to life.

7:30 pm shows: Sept. 26, 27, Oct. 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11
2:00 pm matinees: Sept. 28, Oct. 5, 12
Ticket Prices $14 Adults | $12 Seniors/Students | $8 Children
Ticket Office Phone 360-733-1811
Hours 1 to 6 pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays
1600 H Street, Bellingham