You’re A Great Show, Charlie Brown

If we are to hope that theatre will be able to thrive in Canada and worldwide in the future, we need to invest in its future and in its future patrons and artists. A week ago I sat surrounded by the future of Canadian theatre, and their parents, in the audience for Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People’s production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. They played with the theatre’s flippy chairs, read their programmes with their parents, and worked diligently on the crossword puzzles cleverly included at the back of them. It is so vital that children be exposed to good theatre, and warm, happy memories of going to the theatre, because that increases the odds of them continuing to support good theatre and frequenting theatre companies when they are the adults making their own decisions.
Lorraine Kimsa is an amazing theatre organization that has produced theatre for young people for forty three years and I think it has one of the best mandates I have ever read. It seeks to “have a positive and lasting impact on the emotional, social, and intellectual development of young people in order for them to grow into the unique and wonderful people they were born to be.” You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown is a prime example of great theatre suitable for children, and their grownups, and this production fits Lorraine Kimsa’s mandate perfectly.
You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown is a musical based on the Peanuts comic strip and cartoon characters created by Charles M. Schulz. It was written by Clark Gesner, with additional dialogue by Michael Mayer and additional songs by Andrew Lippa. The show is directed by Allen MacInnis and it is filled with delightful moments of fun, exciting choreography, a great use of space and levels, and constant motion to keep children continually engaged. The actors even walk in the same way that the characters move in the cartoon, which is utterly enchanting for those who recognize it.
Charlie Brown, a clumsy boy with poor self esteem, is played with endearing and cautious earnestness by Cyrus Lane. He gives Charlie a few moments of pure joy, which are often deflated by a wayward kite or a sharp remark from Lucy, but there is an element of resoluteness and determination that shines throughout Lane’s performance to assure us that Charlie Brown will never stop trying to succeed. Karim Morgan plays Schroeder (the rock star pianist), who leads the cast in the amazing production number “Beethoven Day.” Jane Miller is the very essence of crabby, bossy, hysterical, Lucy and she seems like she jumped right out of the television screen and came to life. Jessica Greenberg is delightfully spunky as Sally Brown and rocks “My New Philosophy” with an element of Kristin Chenowethness, and yet still keeps the song entirely her own. It is clear that it is important how the actors say their lines, as often the sense of the sentences are written for adult understanding. Lines like “Don’t tell me my life is not a Shakespearean tragedy” receive giggles from the children simply because of Greenberg’s delivery. She also has a hysterical monologue about a coat hanger project. Jay Turvey plays Snoopy with brilliant sense of cartoonish comic timing, and the loveable, theatrical, imaginative flair that makes Snoopy so much fun to watch. His rendition of “Suppertime” is one of the highlights of the show. Andrew Kushnir shines particularly bright as Linus, a young intellectual with a fondness for his blanket. His facial expressions throughout illicit the biggest giggles, and make sure to watch him especially close during “The Baseball Game.” He has a strong sense of playfulness mixed with genuine sweetness which adds to the poignancy of the piece. All six are clad in some of the most fun and creative costumes I have ever seen, designed by Judith Bowden.
At the end of the show, the company sings a song about happiness, and this play has the power to fill a child or an adult with enough happiness to stomp out any cynicism or Grinchiness you may feel, just in time for the holidays. I watched the future of Canadian theatre as they struggled into their coats and their mittens, hats and snowsuits, and all around me I heard a myriad of grownup voices saying in unison, “So, what did you think?” The kids around me were all unanimous in their praise, and as we all walked out into the snow together, I felt a little warm glow of faith in our future.
You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown plays at Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People (165 Front Street) until December 30th, 2008. It is recommended for ages six and up. It is 85 minutes without an intermission. For tickets call 416 862-2222 or visit http://www.lktyp.ca/.

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