'Charlie Brown' lacks spark


Rainbow Company's "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" is a surprisingly lackluster production that fails to capture the spirit of the Charles M. Schulz characters.

This often-produced, small-scaled musical, based on the revered "Peanuts" comic strip, demands some pretty precise types: the vulnerable and likable title hero (Joshua Stackhouse) who can't seem to do anything right; the loud-mouthed and manipulative Lucy (Caitlin Cypher); and the loyal, attention-getting, dinner-obsessed dog Snoopy (Alec TerBerg). What directors Karen McKenney and Brian Kral give us, though, is generic and broad-stroked. There isn't much there.

Stackhouse, for example, is likable, but doesn't seem particularly vulnerable. He's not much of anything. Cypher is a sweet, childlike soprano, but lacks the brashness and bullying voice that is Lucy. TerBerg clowns around as Snoopy, but he sings out of his range most of the time, and we don't get much sense that he is a flesh-and-blood pet.

J Neal's set is peculiarly drab. It's dwarfed by an oversized, raked artist's table, with white, unfinished story boards. An ugly, black, equally oversized desk lamp towers over the table. This is a concept that may have looked good on paper, but it's unattractive to the eye and robs the stage of visual magic. (Thank goodness for a huge red-with-black-stripes box with two enormous pencils inside that sits stage left. It gives the environment its only suggestion of fantasy color.)

Madalyn Durbin, as Frieda, a girl rightfully proud of her naturally curly hair, is the only major character who seems to belong in Schultz's world. And McKenney's choreography -- particularly during a number involving the attachment of young Linus (Ernest Reynolds) to his blanket -- has a needed playfulness.

The chorus vocals are strong, and there's a healthy dose of actors who command small roles. It's also pleasing (and rare) to experience the music of a six-member live orchestra (under the direction of Joseph Cottone).

The show is harmless, and at times, entertaining. It just doesn't have pizzazz.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

 

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