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PicksInSix Review: You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown

If only dogs could really talk…

Like most of us of a certain age, Charles Schultz Peanuts characters are part of the fabric of my life. It’s hard to believe the comic strip that originated over 75 years ago could still be so timelessly entertaining and relevant today. We may grow out of the regularity of the experience, but when our senses are wrapped around images, music and comedy that reflects a more innocent time in our lives, and the lives of our children, the magical, irresistible feeling consumes us. It’s inescapable.

All those emotional connections will wrap their loving arms around you with happiness for the roughly 65 minutes of the Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences heartwarming revival of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” now playing in Lincolnshire. Sharing the colorful stage space and benefiting enormously from the superb production values of the “Big Fish” run, the show expertly incorporates lights and staging all its own in Marriott’s in-the-round configuration to create the ultimate visual experience for every member of the audience. And that’s not a small feat when easily half of those patrons are of the pint-sized variety.

The musical “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” with book, music and lyrics by Clark Gesner first appeared in the late 60s, was streamlined, updated and remounted with character revisions and additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and dialogue by director Michael Mayer for a Tony-nominated Broadway revival in 1999. Trimmed a bit in the Marriott production to make for a one-act, high-energy romp that amplifies some of the more quiet, heartwarming moments of the show, it’s followed by a terrific post-show talkback that is guaranteed to bring out the kid in all of us. Altogether, it’s 90 minutes of pure family fun!

The uniformly superb ensemble, directed and choreographed with gusto by Linda Fortunato, is led by Patrick Michael Tierney as the valiant, lovable loser Charlie Brown who despite the pitfalls, always seems to find some good out of every situation. The same can be said for every other character from the bossy but endearing Lucy Van Pelt (Tafadzwa Diener) and her forever attraction Schroeder (Matthew Bettencourt) to Lucy’s little brother Linus (Jackson Evans) and Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally (Amanda Walker). Each approaches their worlds with childlike enthusiasm mixed with a healthy dash of lopsided—and hilarious—grown-up pessimism. It’s a wonderfully warm day in the life of a group of comic characters who sincerely like each other. In that choice, director Fortunato keenly targets every childhood observation about friendship, nature and the wonder of it all.

And if you have ever thought what the world would be like if only dogs could really talk, sing and dance, you need look no further than the fetching Andrés Enriquez whose Snoopy captures the essence of the world’s most famous beagle and personifies Schultz’s impish spirit. Enriquez makes “Suppertime” a truly joyous occasion and at one point, during the opening performance last Saturday morning, got a singular howl of a response from the audience that cracked everyone up.

In a nod to the comic strip, Patrick Ham’s stylized set pieces and props, with Evelyn Danner’s iconic costume design, Megan Pirtle’s wigs and the color and light of designer Lee Fickness, all evoke Schultz’s childlike fantasy cartoon world. Musical director and conductor Rick Bertone, in sync with Rick Sims sound, makes every number a winner and this show a nonstop comic treat that will keep even the youngest member of the family sitting on the edge of their seat. Happiness truly is playing now through April 1 at Marriott Theatre.