Citadel's 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown' has appeal, especially for young audience members

  • Citadel Theatre revives "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" with Neil Stratman, left, in the titular role. The production also features Tuesdai B. Perry, left, Marcellus Burt, Alley Ellis, Sierra White and Jimmy Hogan.

    Citadel Theatre revives "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" with Neil Stratman, left, in the titular role. The production also features Tuesdai B. Perry, left, Marcellus Burt, Alley Ellis, Sierra White and Jimmy Hogan. Courtesy of Northshore Camera Club

 
 
Posted11/26/2021 10:45 AM

"You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" -- ★ ★

Watching Citadel Theatre's production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," made me wonder who was having more fun: the actors or the audience? I believe it was the audience members. Especially the youngest audience members who wiggled gleefully and waved their arms in the air during the upbeat numbers that make up this gentle tuner inspired by Charles M. Schulz's beloved "Peanuts" comic strip.

 

At times, the exuberance from those pint-size folks seemed to exceed that of the actors, particularly during the first act of director Joe Lehman's revival. Some of the numbers lacked crispness during the opening weekend's Sunday matinee. The problem is the pacing, which I imagine will improve over the course of the run.

Also missing was the sort of zaniness that underscores a show like this, one animated by the perceptions and imagination of children whose struggles -- with disappointment, loneliness, lack of confidence -- mirror those of adults.

Tuesdai B. Perry plays Snoopy in Citadel Theatre's "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."
Tuesdai B. Perry plays Snoopy in Citadel Theatre's "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." - Courtesy of Northshore Camera Club

There's not much of a narrative to Clark Gesner's 1967 tuner, with additional music by Andrew Lippa and additional dialogue by Michael Mayer. It unfolds as a series of vignettes (some directly from the strip) that chronicle the daily triumphs and challenges of a group of school-age pals. At their center is kindly Charlie (Neil Stratman), an earnest, albeit hapless, everyman who has never pitched a winning baseball game, kept a kite in the air or punted a football. His circle includes garrulous younger sister Sally (Alley Ellis); their dog Snoopy (Tuesdai B. Perry); Charlies's philosophical best friend Linus (Marcellus Burt); Linus' bossy older sister Lucy (Sierra White); and the boy she's sweet on, Beethoven-obsessed Schroeder (Jimmy Hogan).

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Tipping the hat to Schulz, Eric Luchen's cute set -- comprised of stacked cubes brightly illuminated by Samuel Stephen -- recall the panels of a newspaper comic strip.

Charlie Brown (Neil Stratman), second from right, catches snowflakes with his "Peanuts" pals in Citadel Theatre's revival of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." The cast also includes Alley Ellis, left, as Sally Brown, Jimmy Hogan as Schroeder, Marcellus Burt as Linus, Tuesdai B. Perry as Snoopy and Sierra White as Lucy.
Charlie Brown (Neil Stratman), second from right, catches snowflakes with his "Peanuts" pals in Citadel Theatre's revival of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." The cast also includes Alley Ellis, left, as Sally Brown, Jimmy Hogan as Schroeder, Marcellus Burt as Linus, Tuesdai B. Perry as Snoopy and Sierra White as Lucy. - Courtesy of Northshore Camera Club

The first act concludes on a high note with "The Book Report," a funny number that finds the gang struggling with a homework assignment. But it's the second act when Citadel's production shifts into high gear thanks to "My New Philosophy," a charming tap number choreographed by Jake Ganzer and featuring Ellis and Hogan. Also notable is Perry's jubilant "Suppertime," a crowd-pleasing celebration of dinner.

But the show's most important, most enduring number is "Happiness," the lovely, plain-spoken ode to life's simple pleasures that concludes the show. This is the number every "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" cast must deliver. Citadel Theatre's cast does, instilling warmth in the hearts of old and young audiences members alike, sending them from the theater with smiles on their faces and a spring in their step.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• • •

Location: Citadel Theatre, Lake Forest High School West Campus, 300 S. Waukegan Road, Lake Forest, (847) 735-8554, citadeltheatre.org

Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 23. Also 3 p.m. Dec. 11, 18 and 22

Tickets: $40, $45

Running time: About 2 hours, including intermission

Parking: In the lot adjacent to the theater

Rating: For all ages

COVID-19 precautions: Patrons must wear masks, except when eating or drinking

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