Encore Michigan

Charlie Brown comes to The Tibbits

Review July 21, 2021 Julie Linderleaf

COLDWATER, MI–Did you know that there are over nine musicals based on comic strips–Annie, The AddamsFamily and Spiderman are probably the best known. But did you know that they turned Superman into a staged musical or even Doonsbury?

Peanuts, originally created by Charles M. Schultz, was first turned into a musical in 1967 by Clark Gesner, Andrew Lippa, and Michael Mayer, and ran for about four years in New York City. The musical, titled You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown was also turned into a television special in 1986 with the same moniker.  This classic comic strip from the 1950’s that almost everyone read or waited anxiously to watch as holiday specials, is live onstage at Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater, Michigan July 20-23.

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is a musical with short scenes with mini life lessons.  Marriage, school, careers, love, pets, bad habits, all seen through the eyes of a kid, specifically a popular Peanuts character. Most of the characters, especially Charlie Brown, played by Michael Motkowski, seem to find fault in the things they do or how they act. Charlie Brown and Lucy try to analyze his self-hate in the song, “The Doctor is in.”  LucyVan Pelt, played by Liz Davis, deals with her crabbiness. Linus Van Pelt, played by Stephen Vaught, deals with his need for a security blanket. Schroeder, played by Nile Birch, deals with an unwanted crush. And Sally Brown, played by Brooke Jackson, deals with school issues.  Even Snoopy, an audience favorite with a shockingly powerhouse voice, played by Jack Hopewell, deals with empty bowls and boredom. But everything is explained in the final song “Happiness,” and how it simply can be found anywhere, like in finding a pencil or two kinds of ice cream.

This is the second show back inside the Tibbits Opera House and the directors and designers are definitely taking advantage of the traditional staging spaces and equipment. The director and scenic designer, Matthew C.Scott, took an imaginative approach by creating everything, and I mean everything, in a flat two-dimensional Charles M. Schultz Peanuts comicstrip design–in full color, of course.  But even the pencils are designed comically flat. Stephen Vaught, choreographer and Linus, created quirky and cute dances for almost all the songs especially his character’s song, “Myblanket and me” where he does a dream dance with his anthropomorphic blue security blanket, which the young audience visibly notices and announces that it is played by snoopy!

If audience members are familiar with Peanuts, the characters will definitely be recognizable by their costumes created by Dusti Donbrock. Sally’s pink polka dot dress, and Charlie Brown’s Yellow polo shirt with classic zigzag make the characters stand out.  Sally’s Shirley Temple-style curly wig and Lucy’s shorter headbanded wig were unique interpretations on the characters. The Snoopy character, a classic white beagle with long black ears, was impressively solved with white overalls and Jack’s real long hair.

The seats at most theatrical productions nowadays seem to be filled with an audience of a certain past decade. Obviously, Charlie Brown is a classic favorite that spans ages and time frames. So the audience for this production seemed filled to the brim with grandparents giving their children a few hours off of parenting and taking an afternoon to bond with their progeny over a comic strip they grew up with and watch together as it’s brought to life on the big stage. It is wonderful to see the current theatre-going audience hopefully creating a love of theatre in a budding new generation.

Tickets are still available to see You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown thisweek. Contact 517-278-6029 or www.tibits.org to order.  There is also one more show in the Tibbits Opera House summer season line-up: It’s the classic play made famous by the movie version with Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn, On Golden Pond, Tuesday, July 28 – August 6.

Week of 5/23/2022

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