“YOU’RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN” OPENS AT SUMMER THEATRE OF NEW CANAAN
By Marlene S. Gaylinn
“Happiness is..." attending Summer Theatre of New Canaan’s (STONC) delightful production of “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown,” at Wavenly Park. This musical based on the comic strip “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz, is a poignant depiction of childhood - a subject that is appealing to everyone. Remember those innocent days when a look, a smile, even a chewed-up pencil that belonged to "...that little red-headed girl,” could bring sublime happiness?
An energetic group of young professionals make each cartoon character come alive. Edmund Bagnell, who stole the show last summer as Tom Sawyer in “Big River,” heads this cast as the sensitive and philosophical, “Charlie Brown.” One cannot imagine anyone better suited for the role. Bagnell is everyone’s little boy. He comes across with such tenderness and understanding of the character that every mother would want to reach out and give him a big hug.
Speaking of hugs, would you believe that Charlie Brown’s humanized dog, “Snoopy,” (Christian Libonati) could be just as entertaining and loveable as his master? Libonati is so much in character with his twinkling eyes and lapping lips, that it’s almost certain he must have such a dog at home. The actor’s rooftop stretches, his toying with dog food dishes, participation in the rabbit hunt, baseball game and most of all, the heroic daydream of “The Red Baron” are absolutely hilarious. It follows that Libonati receives well-deserved hugs and head-pats as well.
Pert and pretty Kate Bodenheimer portrays the outspoken “Lucy,” complete with loud mouth annoyances. We loved her attention-demanding interactions with the studious, piano prodigy, “Schroeder” (Stephen Schellhardt). You could swear that Schellhardt was playing the correct keys on that toy piano. He also acts, sings and dances in his highlighted number, “Beethoven Day." “My New Philosophy,” another number including Schellhardt, gave Malika Petty the opportunity to show off her outstanding talents as the vivacious, “Sally Brown.” Petty gave an absolutely brilliant song and dance performance.
Although appearing too old for the baby brother role of “Linus,” in the segment called “My Blanket and Me,” Nick Reynolds strikes a note with those familiar with childhood security blankets. Speaking from personal experience, we “accidentally on purpose” left our own 4yr. old boy’s security blanket in a cabin, at a National Park, only to have it unexpectedly mailed back to us a week later - after he finally got used to being without it.
Melody Libonati is the Artistic Director for STONC and this highly, imaginative production. A lively orchestra is under the direction of David Turner. The lighthearted choreography is by Doug Shankman and cartoon-derived costumes are by Sarita Fellows.
The shows take place under a huge, all weather tent. New, comfortable seats have replaced the hard ones of past seasons. Free parking is located at the adjoining New Canaan High School.
Plays: through July 9
Tickets: stonc.org /203 966 4634
This review appears in “On Connecticut Theatre/July 2011