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Welcome Charlie and his gang to Pacifica, Ca in a well produced version of the nostalgic musical. YOU’RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN is now on stage at the Pacifica Spindrift Players theatre through Feb 12th. Directed by Sarah Lodick, she brings a talented and expanded cast to this likable production. The “Peanuts” comic strip was one of the iconic creations of the 20th century. And while you can’t say the same for the 1967 musical based on that comic, the Spindrift Players production appropriates enough charm from Charles M. Schulz’s strips to keep the enthusiastic actors agreeably busy for two hours. Watching the Peanuts Gang is like running into your old group of friends. The last thirty years have treated them well, they haven't changed much since the late '60s. They're still obsessed with all the insecurities, doubts, and angst that is experienced in everyone’s childhood.

Justin Kerekes plays the hero Charlie and has that look which is so well known. He keeps the audience in a very cool state of sympathy with his awkwardness and missteps. His featured number “The Kite” is well done and maintains the boyhood mannerisms that keep the number cute. Kerekes' Charlie Brown is charming, both for his performance and the childlike wonder he created. Charlie Brown when done properly, is a thankless role. This was Kerekes' theatre debut and he is sure to go far. I would love to see him more on stage.

Justin Kerekes as Charlie Brown and Jennifier Gough as Lucy

The striking Jennifer Gough is Lucy and is over the top as the little girl as expected. Lucy exists solely to challenge the developing personalities of the other characters. A self-indulgent actress would quickly fall victim to the trap of playing Lucy as anything more than the irritable and grumpy one-dimensional figure. The role needs to be allowed to work on its own terms. Gough’s efforts pay off handsomely right at the end, when, in one simple and effective sentence she brings a tear to the eye, a lump to the throat, and resolves all issues of adolescent angst. If You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown has any social relevance, emotional significance, then this brief, golden moment - when we are given permission to be ourselves, faults and all, sets the tone for this show. When I read these comic strips during the heyday of Peanuts, the scene with Lucy in the psychiatrist booth “The Doctor Is In” always brings back a lot of memories.

The adorable Nicolina Akraboff is the marvelous Snoopy and steals the show with her opening number “Snoopy” and the show stopping second act 11 o’clock number “Suppertime” along with her sidekick Woodstock played by the frisky Cheril Ellingson. Akraboff brings some amazing charm as an actor in a white jump suit playing the iconic dog. Sophia Edwards as the adorable Sally, is just as sassy as Lucy in her innocent but mischievous way. Sally in her coat hanger monologue is very funny and her song “My New Philosophy” is a highlight of the show.

The keen and skilled Juan Castro is cast as the thumb sucking Linus and is accentuated in the wonderfully choreographed “My Blanket and Me”. Choreographer Julia Thollaug uses Castro's charming moves with his baby blue blanket to keep the blanket as one of the characters in the song. Thollaug has the treat of working with a larger cast of Peanuts characters for many of her dance numbers. The musical is usually staged with just the six main characters, but director Lodick expanded the cast to include Woodstock, Pigpen, Peppermint Patty, Little Red-Haired Girl and a few others.

Local favorite Jepoy Ramos plays a perfect piano loving Schroeder, the Beethoven impresario that Lucy loves. Ramos delivers his charismatic portrayal of the very funny young genius sitting along side his piano. Ramos has perhaps the best singing voice on stage, and his Schroeder is the most stable and mature character of the bunch. If his take on the role is occasionally a bit too intense, his performance comes into its own in Andrew Lippa's two new songs, "Beethoven Day" and "My New Philosophy."

Other players in the cast include Sarah Farkas, Bella Tapia, Alexandra Mays, Rachel Nagrecha, Mae Linh Fatum, Ruby Bruno, William Rhea, and Emily Simpson. They helped make the scenes memorable specially in the larger production numbers like the inspired lunacy of the "Chasing Rabbits" sequence/ “The Book Report”, “The Baseball Game”, and the hilarious “Glee Club Rehearsal”.

The Spindrift players production team is stellar. Musical Director Louis Lagalante was impressive as the MD and the leader of the band. Lindsay Schulz, who’s oversized props are perfect to dwarf the company. Jennifer Gough, did a double task from actor to costume designer keeping all actors very colorful. Carson Duper’s very clever lighting and set design uses the back skrim to set up some very cheery moods. Clark Gesner’s original music and book was first designed for a more intimate house, and this production is perfect for that look. Sound designer Gary Schoenfeld does not mic the cast since the Spindrift stage is a black box, but he has certain sound cues with the characters that work well. The mix with the on stage band under the direction of Lagalante also includes Ethan Straffin on drums. Assistant director Mike Fatum help keep this larger cast effectively entertaining.

The challenge of Charlie Brown these days is what made the original production so appealing. It is whimsical, with little more to its credit than a handful of jokes and 16 fun and entertaining songs. There is no plot as such, just simply a series of vignettes which are little more than set-ups for character based musical numbers. As Charlie Brown expresses what makes him happy, everyone is touched by his love of life in the closing number “Happiness”. Charlie realizes that being a "good man" means trying your best and making the most of the things you've been given in life. Lucy walks over and she shakes his hand firmly, then tells him, "You're a good man, Charlie Brown” - a perfect culmination to this heart-warming show.

The Spindrift production is well done and sweet. It brings back many fond memories of seeing this show over the years. This is a great cast and will generate a new audience for Charlie Brown and his Gang as you share this comic strip musical adaptation with your family.

Pacifica Spindrift Players Presents

"You're a good man, Charlie Brown.”

Based on the comic strip “Peanuts”

By Charles M. Schultz

Book, Music and Lyrics by Clark Gesner

Additional Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa

Additional Dialogue by Michael Mayer

Directed by Sarah Lodick

Music Director Louis Lagalante, Choreographer Julia Thollaug

Through Feb 12

PSP Theater, 1050 Crespi Drive, Pacifica, CA

Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Sunday at 2 p.m.

Two hours with one intermission


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