Lucy’s “Psychiatric Help, 5 Cents” office is open for business.
Charlie Brown, depressed as usual, feeling unloved, underappreciated and flawed, lonely and rejected, too, is a customer. After some consultation, Dr. Lucy offers a diagnosis: “For what it is worth, Charlie,” she says, “you’re you.”
The same could be said for the “revisal” of the Clark Gesner-Michael Mayer-Andrew Lippa award-winning little musical, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” It’s the tale of angst-filled Charlie and his 6-year-old, first-grade pals: tiny terror Lucy, Beethoven-loving Schroeder, blanket-toting Linus, Charlie’s mercurial younger sister Sally and the precocious, Red Baron-seeking beagle, Snoopy. The show has also been unappreciated for some time now, maybe unloved by unbelievers and, well, it is flawed. No problem.
O’Connell & Company and director Guy Tomassi have a lovable production of “Charlie” at their current ECC home for the next two weekends. Tomassi has a soft spot in his heart for the show and it shows. His cast has been well-chosen. The excellent, pace-perfect Nicholas Lama stars in the title role; elfin Anne Roaldi, crabby as Lucy and a delight; Steven Sitzman as Schroeder; Josh Snyder as Linus; Arin Lee Dandes, the TOY Co. veteran, as Sally; and Joey Bucheker, who also doubles as choreographer, as Snoopy. It’s a nice, animated mix with fine chemistry, talent vocally and afoot and able conveyors of the many messages of cartoonist Charles Schulz, the creator of the “Peanuts” gang.
This “Charlie” is very fine where it should be, in the “group dynamics” moments: “The Book Report,” “The Baseball Game,” “Glee Club Rehearsal” and the closing “Happiness,” the latter filled with sugary but necessary reminders of timeless, generational things. This little musical has always had extraordinary heart. Tomassi and his cast see that the trait is maintained even with a caveat or two.
Sometimes the many skits between songs fall flat. Too cute? Here and there. But along come a few minutes like “My New Philosophy” (subtitled “Why Are You Telling Me?”) a delightful few minutes with Sally and Schroeder, a perfect ditty for living in a world of nonstop information, useless stuff you could care less about but deemed important by others like media, emailers, bloggers. “Why Are You Telling Me?”
What a great mantra. Not recommended for spousal use, though. Nice work by Dandes and the very capable Sitzman, yet another Niagara University theater alumnus.
Young playgoers will love this show but truthfully, it will resonate more with adults.
Like when Sally says, “Well, I don’t know. I was jumping rope. Everything was all right and suddenly it all seemed so futile.” A subtle comment about boredom on the job, a line right out of Chekhov or Beckett. “Charlie Brown,” it seems to me, has aged gracefully.
Musical direction is by pianist Chuck Basil; Craig Hodnett is the bassist. There is a minimalist but serviceable set by Ryan Scarfone.
Director Tomassi has played Charlie Brown on stage several times. His love for the work is obvious and to his credit the characters are familiar but not tired. Tomassi has stressed the resilience of the “Peanuts” crew and more importantly, their better natures.
“Happiness” is once again a production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
“You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”
Three stars (Out of four)
Presented by O’Connell & Company, through April 28 at Erie Community College, Gleasner Hall, 6205 Main St., Amherst. Tickets are $25, $18 seniors, $15 students and ages 4-12. For information, call 848-0800 or visit www.oconnellandcompany.com.