Directed by Carole Higgins. A Carousel Theatre for Young People production. At the Waterfront Theatre on Sunday, December 2. Continues until December 30
Charlie Brown and his Peanuts gang are looking fabulous these days. Carousel Theatre for Young People’s A Charlie Brown Holiday Double Bill has brought Charlie and his crew to the stage of the Waterfront Theatre in a larger-than-life theatrical experience that kids and parents alike will enjoy.
The program features two one-act shows: the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and a stage adaptation of the TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. In You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, we see Charlie and his friends, including Snoopy, Lucy, Sally, Linus, and Schroeder, tackle some puzzling questions, such as whether eating peanut-butter sandwiches leads to loneliness, how to stay motivated when your baseball team always loses, and whether it’s possible to let go of your security blanket. Along the way, they take time to celebrate some of life’s small wins, including suppertime, celebrating Beethoven’s birthday, and simply enjoying a pleasant evening.
In A Charlie Brown Christmas, we follow Charlie as he tries to find his holiday spirit by directing his gang’s Christmas pageant. All the hallmarks of the classic TV special, such as the song “Christmas Time Is Here” and the adorable dance number “The Auditorium”, where the characters rehearse for the pageant, are brought to life with great energy and enthusiasm.
Thanks to Al Frisk’s colourful set, we’re transported to a whimsical world of disproportionate props, such as gigantic versions of lunch bags, pencils, and Snoopy’s feeding bowl, and, on the other end of the scale, Schroeder’s mini piano. Music director Arielle Ballance sits at a bright yellow piano, which adds a fun splash of colour to the set. Barbara Clayden has nailed the costume designs, making all the characters instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with the Charlie Brown cartoons and comics. Details down to mittens attached to the kids’ jackets are delightful to see.
Young audiences will be in awe of director Carole Higgins’s clever staging, along with Amanda Testini’s choreography. Highlights include a skating scene, where the characters effortlessly glide across the stage on their “ice skates”, as well as a scene where Charlie and his pal Pig Pen build a snowman right before our eyes.
As Charlie Brown, Andrew Cownden does an excellent job displaying Charlie’s insecurities, innocence, and loneliness, making him an enjoyable protagonist to root for. The entire cast, including the three musicians who also play characters, are a pleasure to watch, performing with great animation and detailed characterization, down to their little shuffles.
One standout performer is Cecilly Day as Snoopy. Her playfulness and enthusiasm are endearing, including the way she barks, howls, naps, and reacts to Charlie when he returns home. She has a fantastic singing voice to match and attacks “Suppertime” with charisma and humour.
Complete with snow falling on-stage, and a “Holiday Megamix” that includes a number of classic tunes, A Charlie Brown Holiday Double Bill is an excellent way for families to get into the seasonal spirit.