News Column

'Charlie Brown' takes audience back to childhood [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)]

October 15, 2013

YellowBrix

Greensburg Civic Theatre opens its 2013-14 season with a musical comedy based on a well-known group of kids who skyrocketed to fame in the comic strip "Peanuts."

Cartoonist Charles Schulz's lovable characters are the stars of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," Clark Gesner's look at an average day in the life of Charlie Brown and his pals.

Directed by RobMacIntyre, the show features Mike Crosby of Greensburg as Charlie Brown, who is affectionately referred to as "blockhead" and "stupid" by his friends. Crosby says it's not easy portraying an iconic character because of the audience's expectations, "but this show allows you to make the character your own while still staying true to the Charlie Brown that everyone loves."

The actor is guided in his portrayal by his belief that even though Charlie Brown is constantly put upon by the other characters, he maintains a good-natured attitude, even if it sometimes gets the best of him.

"He gets sad or depressed like any of us, but he still has moments of wild optimism and is genuine and kind to everyone around him," Crosby says.

Cast as Lucy van Pelt -- Charlie Brown's schoolmate who's happiest when she's pulling a football away as he's about to kick it -- is Jessica Kowalski of Forest Hills.

Kowalski is having fun playing the little girl she describes as "mostly sass, with a little bit of sweetness mixed in. What I like most about her is, although she has a tough exterior, she's a big softie deep down. Even though she constantly gives Charlie a hard time, I think she might actually care for him more than anyone."

Kowalski was in the ensemble in her high-school production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" and has looked forward to an opportunity to play Lucy in the musical.

"She's a very dramatic, dynamic character," she says.

A memorable score features songs that bring out the personalities of characters, as in Linus' rendition of "My Blanket and Me" -- an ode to his constant companion, his security blanket -- and the cast expounds on the joys of childhood in the heart-warming "Happiness."

Crosby says the show's best features include the effectiveness of the music and the interaction between the characters.

"The music is so catchy and so well written, the audience will be singing to themselves long after the show is over," he says. "It is the kind of show that both children and adults will love. Children will love it because it is like watching a giant cartoon right in front of them. Adults will love it because they know the characters and it will take them back to their childhood. It really is the perfect family musical."

"It isn't a complex plot, so people of all ages can easily enjoy it. It's just pure entertainment and silly fun. The Peanuts characters are timeless," Kowalski says.

The cast also features Alexandra Swartz as Sally Brown, Eric Wielock as Linus van Pelt, Bill Elder as Schroeder, Ryan Hadbavny as Snoopy and McKenzie Powell as Woodstock and Linus' Blanket, with vocal direction by Andrea Frescura and music by Michael Gibson. Katie Hillebrecht is stage manager.

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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