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You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown

Maria Smith | Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Happiness might be many things.Could it be money? Could it be love?Or could it, just maybe, be reliving the life of a child through “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”?This is, perhaps, the hope of the Farley Hall Players, who will attempt to capture all the favorite “Peanuts” characters when they perform “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” this weekend.This Broadway musical, based on the whimsical scenes from Charles Schultz’ famous comic strip, has become a favorite with many audiences, and it is easy to see why. Little vignettes out of the daily life of Lucy, Sally, Snoopy, Pig Pen and other favorites mirror the cartoon strip very well, and songs like “My New Philosophy” and “Suppertime” as well as the title track are great ringers for show choirs.The characters are sometimes even more endearing onstage than in the Sunday newspaper. Watching Charlie Brown think himself in circles, Lucy terrorize everyone around her and Snoopy pontificate on the meaning of being a dog can really add a new dimension to the comic strip.”You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” as performed by the Farley Hall Players brings out some of the lovable aspects of the musical. The acting and set are particularly enjoyable, and flesh out the comic strip on which they are based very well.The performance has an extremely young cast, which is perhaps appropriate. Most of the actors are sophomores and freshmen, with only one junior and one senior playing major roles.Several of the actors step into their roles well. Sophomore Brad Lancy, who plays Charlie Brown, has a great antagonistic rapport with freshman Katie Elizabeth Nuss, who plays Lucy. The realm of childhood is a big departure from Lancy’s last role as a dour old doctor in February’s performance of “Grand Hotel.””[This role] was hard at first,” Lancy said. “But it’s a kind of mindset we all go back to, I think. Every night we fall right into it.”Sophomore Katie Scarlett O’Hara, who played an aging ballerina in “Grand Hotel” earlier this semester, seems to have been born to play the role of a small child. O’Hara’s performance as Charlie Brown’s younger sister Sally is actually the most dynamic and entertaining in the show.”In three months I’ve had to un-age myself about 70 years,” O’Hara said. “But I think all the ‘Peanuts’ characters are ones everyone can relate to.”Sophomore Mike Bogdan fits the role of the pretentious piano-playing Schroeder very well. It may be accidental that Bogdan resembles David Hyde Pierce, who plays the pretentious piano-playing character of Niles from the hit sitcom “Frasier,” but the resemblance is more than appropriate.Junior Eric Buell has generally confined himself to cameos and single performances, playing King Herod in the 2003 Musical Revue and Nazi #2 in “Bent” last semester. He has adjusted well to the larger role of the blanket-carrying Linus.”I’ve been sucking my thumb for months and going to class with my blanket,” Buell said. “I’m not acting that much – I’m really like a five-year-old. I’m just doing my thing.”Sadly, the cast doesn’t have the musical power to support some of the musical numbers. The dance routines are cute, but some of the musical numbers just aren’t performed to their full potential.The Notre Dame stage may be a relatively new thing for most of the cast, but it’s old hat for director KC Kenney. Kenney has been involved with numerous music and drama groups during his four years on campus, most extensively with the Farley Hall Players and the Pasquerilla East Musical Company.Kenney has wanted to put on “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” since freshman year. He first performed “Happiness,” the closing number, in the 2002 Musical Revue, but it took three years to bring the whole musical to the stage.”This is my first directing experience, so I’ve had my share of challenges,” Kenney said. “But it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done at Notre Dame.”Like any musical or dramatic performance, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” has been a bonding experience for the cast and crew.”Over the course of the past weeks as the cast has become younger, they’ve gotten to be like the family I hoped for,” Kenney said. “That means a lot of fighting, but without killing each other.”So if you’re headed for graduation and want a last whimsical glance into childhood, or if you just want to see some of Notre Dame’s younger actors, head out to Washington Hall and show just how much you support Charlie Brown.