You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown Review

YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN is a nice vacation from the stresses of city life. This is a simple-minded musical with little plot and no anxiety.

Katie Scarlett and Doc Hayman

It's based on the Peanuts comic strip and includes all the major characters: good ol' Charlie Brown (Coby Getzug), Schroeder (Gabe Greenspan), Linus (Doc Hayman), Marcie (Hannah Howzdy), Woodstock (Kayla Goldberg) and the rest of the gang. The actors are no older than sixteen and are members of the Children's Theatre Group of Southern California. The house was full, mostly of parents on this opening night. However, there will not likely be too many empty seats for the remainder of the 4-week run.

Although still children, most of the actors play younger still to match the ages of the characters. The exception to this is Snoopy, played by Brooke O'Donnell, who portrays the philosopher/dreamer dog with sophistication even when diving into a food dish.

Coby Getzug as Charlie Brown and Brooke O'Donnell as Snoopy

This matches Snoopy well, who requires versatility for the cast of people he dreams up for himself in the comic strip. O'Donnell is also the only one allowed to use her best singing voice, a talented one best heard during the supper song. All other singers in the cast are directed to sing powerfully, but below their ability, which is appropriate to the silliness of the characters.

During a few chorus calls, their true voices belt out. The kids obviously have a lot of fun leaping around in the little vignettes that each include a series of memorable punchlines from the comic.

Despite the frivolity of the script, the actors have obviously taken the production seriously. In over 2 hours, not a cue was missed and the timing was precise. There are plenty of exact lighting and musical beats that do not allow for error, and apparently no errors were made.

Maggie Stabile, Coby Getzug and Brooke O'Donnell

A children's production is seldom flawless; there's always the one kid who has no clue what line follows, or runs off the stage with wet trousers. None of this happened during CHARLIE BROWN, which is a testament to the dedication of the cast, but also to the quality of their training. As members of CTGSC, they receive professional training from a Broadway-experienced staff.

"We don't direct down to them because they're kids," explained director Bonnie Hellman, "With school and other activities, the kids rehearsed only about 9 hours a week, so they had to do a lot of work on their own."

This was a fairly large cast of twelve, though a fraction of the 54 members in the company. Members/students each take 2 hour classes every week which are designed, says Hellman, to teach them not only to be good actors, but nice people, too, to respect each other and their work. Their comraderie comes through on stage as the connections between characters seem genuine.

Gabe Greenspan and Maggie Stabile

"Eclectic Theatre Company came up and said that this is the best theatre by children they had ever seen, so they invited us to join the company," Hellman spoke of the relationship CTGSC has enjoyed with the North Hollywood theatre, whose producers saw the group's work and linked up. The Eclectic is now their home theatre where they put together about two shows a year and several workshops. The result is evident in the bios of the cast who have more credentials than most adult actors.

For all its simplicity, YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN, staying true to the comic strip, manages to touch on a few deep thoughts and introspective ponderings. All in all, it's a fun evening of silly, surreal theatre.

WHERE: The Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91607. Between Chandler and Magnolia.

WHEN: February 23- March 18, 2007. Fri. & Sat. at 7 p.m. (note early curtain time) and Sunday at 2 p.m.

ADMISSION: $18.

RESERVATIONS AND INFORMATION: (818) 508-3003.

WEBSITE: www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org

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