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By |2006-04-27T09:00:00-04:00April 27th, 2006|Entertainment|

Review: ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’

‘Good grief’ at Meadow Brook Theatre

Growing up is never easy, especially if you’re a neurotic, round-headed kid named Charlie Brown.
The star of the brilliant comic strip “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz, good ol’ Charlie Brown first appeared in the newspaper funny pages in October, 1950, and he quickly took the world by storm. Not only did he and his little pals spawn an empire that eventually included award-winning TV shows, greeting cards and a plethora of toys, games and novelty items, they also found their way to the New York stage in a 1967 musical that packed the house for nearly 1,600 performances. A subsequent update brought the “Peanuts” gang back to Broadway in 1999 – and now to the stage of Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester where director David L. Regal delivers a thoroughly enjoyable season closer that’s ideal for the whole family.
Presented as “an average day in the life of Charlie Brown,” there’s no readily identifiable story line that drives this charming, whimsical and nostalgic production. Instead, creator Clark Gesner offers the audience a look at life from a six-year-old’s perspective, using often-intersecting vignettes to stuff much of what made the comic strip insanely popular into a quick-moving two hours of entertainment. There’s Linus with his security blanket, Schroeder and his piano, Lucy with her Doctor’s booth, Sally and her jump rope and Snoopy atop his doghouse fighting the Red Baron. And then there’s Charlie Brown and his kite-eating tree, his pen pal and his ever-losing baseball team.
It’s a memorable romp through nearly 50 years of “Peanuts” history that Regal brings to life, thanks to the catchy tunes and the especially fine performance of Jason Richards. It seems as though Richards was born to play Charlie Brown, as he appears to totally understand this lovable sad sack. Every nuance Schulz built into his creation is beautifully expressed by the actor through not only his voice, but also through his facial expressions and body language. And his singing voice compliments the music quite well.
Another treasure is the very animated Lee Huff who plays Schroeder. Of all the other actors in the show, it is Huff who not only comprehends the fact that he’s playing a six-year-old, but he totally believes it, as well. And that means we do, too, since every child-like move he makes and every word he self-assuredly delivers is totally authentic and convincing. He’s a joy to watch from start to finish.
Also in the production are Joey Bybee as everyone’s favorite pooch, Snoopy; Paul Riopelle as the thumb-sucking philosopher, Linus; the cute Catherine Lutz as Sally Brown; and Stacy White as the Queen of Crabs, Lucy.
What’s missing from Regal’s otherwise slick and entertaining production is the frenetic energy found in every first grade classroom throughout the world. And the low-key choreography by Jennifer Joan Joy is serviceable at best.
However, Brent Wrobel’s colorful, but simple set fully recreates the world of “Peanuts” – right on down to the stone walls behind which much of Schulz’s philosophy was espoused.
“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” runs Wed.-Sun. at Meadow Brook Theatre, on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester, through May 14. Tickets: $20-$36. For information: 248-377-3300 or
The Bottom Line: Happiness is delivered at Meadow Brook Theatre.

Confessions of a Cranky Critic:

Theaters are wild about The Wilde Carde; Are you?

It took only ten minutes to get the first response to an e-mail I sent last Wednesday announcing The Wilde Carde to executives of and publicists for the state’s professional theater community. A minute later came the next. A few minutes after that came the third.
“This is fantastic,” wrote Dave Blackburn of Michigan Opera Theatre, the first to respond.
“We’re in,” said Anthony Rhine of Wayne State University’s Hilberry program.
“This sounds like a great idea,” exclaimed Joe Kvoriak of the Jewish Ensemble Theatre Company.
And that’s pretty much the universal response The Wilde Carde has received so far from the people who produce and promote professional theater in Michigan. So far, 15 theaters large and small have expressed interest in participating in the program – and that number is expected to grow over the next several weeks.
But the BIG question, of course, isn’t which theaters are going to participate; it’s will LGBT theatergoers actually take advantage of the program and show up at the box office with their Wilde Cardes in hand?
I’d like to think so. After all, the LGBT community has long been a major supporter of theater – and who among us can resist a fun night out with discount tickets? Plus, it’s a great – and cheap – way to sample the wares of a theater you’ve never been to before. How cool is that?
And finally, to make The Wilde Carde even MORE attractive, it’s a promotional package that couldn’t be easier to use. It’s a “no fuss, no muss” program that simply requires interested theatergoers to either clip the ad-like coupon from an issue of Between The Lines – or print one from our Web site, – and present it at the participating theater’s box office at the time you purchase the tickets.
So when does this exciting program begin, you might be asking yourself? How about Friday, May 12 with the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester where Wilde Carde holders will be able to purchase two tickets for the price of one. Then it’s off to Ann Arbor on Friday, May 19 for “Uncoupled” at Improv Inferno where Wilde Carders will get not only half off the regular $10 ticket price, but half off their drink specials, too! Then follow Plowshares Theatre Company over to Detroit’s Boll Family YMCA for a staged reading of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” at half-price on Saturday, May 27.
Then the program will return in July and throughout the 2006/07 season.
So: Do YOU plan to go wild with The Wilde Carde?
For complete information about The Wilde Carde, log on to

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