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‘Charlie Brown’ not just for kids

“They say that lonely people eat peanut butter sandwiches, and when you’re especially lonely, the peanut butter sticks to the roof of you mouth,” bemoans Charlie Brown comically through gobs of gooey peanut butter in Thingamajig Theater Company’s musical production, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” opening June 22 and running through Aug. 5 at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. 

Based on the iconic comic strip “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz, this fun and family-friendly comedic musical tells the story of an average day in the life of six-year-old Charlie Brown and his good friends Linus, Sally, Lucy, Schroeder and, of course, his lovable dog Snoopy. Using the revised score created for the show’s 1999 Broadway revival, director Wendy Moore succeeds in bringing to life Schulz’s kid characters with help from a very funny and talented ensemble cast. This charming production will bring out your inner kid while making you laugh over and over.

The show opens with Charlie Brown, in a standout performance by Adam Sowards, running late for school, which is not usual for him. As he struggles to put on his clothes, his friends sing the show’s energetic opening number, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” where they each give their various opinions of him. The six-member cast, clad in brightly colored costumes seemingly straight off the comic strip, run and skip through the small black-box theater and across the stage colorfully brought to life in Schulz’s vibrant drawings. Their strong, clear vocals and high energy are infectious as the audience is instantly pulled into Charlie Brown’s world.

Throughout the show, Sowards perfectly captures Charlie Brown’s happy and eternally hopeful expressions as he wonders aloud whether he really is a “good man.” In one memorable scene, he uses his strong, clear voice and hilarious facial expressions to bring the audience to stitches as he intensely debates whether to say hello to his crush, the Little Red-Haired Girl. Later in the show, Sowards again displays his physical comedy skills in the hilarious duet with Lucy, “The Doctor is In” and in the ensemble song, “The Baseball Game.” He was consistently funny and a total delight to watch.

Another highlight performance came from Mohriah James’ brilliant portrayal of know-it-all, bossy Lucy. James, clad in a bright dress, was a scene-stealer every time she appeared on stage. Her lovely, strong voice coupled with her flair for physical comedy wowed the audience as she hilariously batted her eyes and tossed her hair in an attempt to woo her musically inclined love interest in “Schroeder.” James’ singing was as equally brilliant as her entertaining acting and funny facial expressions.

Schroeder, memorably played by Laith Scherer, provided one of the show’s highlights in the energetic, wonderfully choreographed song, “Beethoven Day.” His booming voice soared around the small Thingamajig stage as he danced and sang with Charlie and the gang.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention Alyse Neubert’s fabulous performance as Snoopy.  Dressed simply in a black and white shirt and fluffy white pants, Neuberts’s tall, athletic body spends much of its time crouched next to the leg of Charlie Brown or stretched on the top of the doghouse. Like many of her cast mates, Neubert is also an expert at physical comedy and thrills the audience with her song, “Snoopy.” In act two, Neubert returns with the amusing solo “The Red Barron” but later brings down the house with the side splitting and wonderfully choreographed, “Suppertime,” a clear audience favorite.

Elizabeth Dunn and Billy Pinto also provided entertaining performances as Sally, Charlie Brown’s little sister, and Linus, Charlie’s thumb-sucking, blanket holding friend. Dunn has a nice, clear voice and obviously had a good time singing “My New Philosophy.”  Her energy was evident and engaging and her comedic moments in the show are not to be missed. Pinto’s Linus also had some endearing one-liners in the show (“Sucking your thumb without a blanket is like eating a cone without ice cream”). His main solo, “My Blanket and Me,” was enjoyable as he danced around the stage with his blanket in tow. The sequence is a big surprise and a lot of fun.

This is a charming production of an enjoyable Broadway show in a small, intimate theater. So whether you are an avid fan of the “Peanuts” gang or just looking for fresh, upbeat performances by a great cast, I highly recommend that you bring the kid in you to the Thingamajig Theatre.

Thingamajig Theatre Company’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown!,” directed by Wendy Moore and choreographed by Alyse Neubert, opens June 22 and runs through Aug. 5. The show is appropriate for all audiences.

Tickets to the Champagne Opening June 22 are $30 in advance or $35 at the door. All other performances are $20 in advance or $25 at the door ($10 for children 12 and under) and can be secured by visiting www.pagosacenter.org or calling 731-SHOW.

Thingamajig Theatre Company is located at 2313 Eagle Drive, within the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.

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