Musical review: ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’

Photo courtesy of CenterStage Clovis Community Theater

By Jordan Severns | Reporter

CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre finished off the summer July 30 with a flawless showing of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at Clovis Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium.

The young performers, which ranged from ages 8-18, took the stage in front of over 100 people to showcase a rendition based on the comic strip “Peanuts,” created by Charles M. Schultz. While most of us are familiar with Charlie Brown, the character in the comic strip that’s been around for more than five decades, “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” is a musical, directed by 19-year-old Nicholas Cherry, that takes you through a day in the life with Charlie and his pals along with his dog, Snoopy.

Early on, the stage was empty and the audience slowly crept into the Clovis Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium on the hottest day of 2016. The auditorium went from half-empty, to half-full, to nearly sold out by the time the show began. The children in the audience sounded gleeful as they recognized the familiar “Peanuts” characters that took the stage.

Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, Pigpen, Schroeder, Sally, Franklin, and Charlie Brown kicked off Act I with a crisp and loud sing-a-long which pulled six characters on stage as the loud performance got underway. Shortly after the song began, up to 17 characters were on stage joining the main cast as the introduction captivated the audience with colorful costumes and clear vocals. This opening song, titled “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” shows off the good choreography, great vocal range, superior audio production and perfect on-stage lighting. Audience members praised Mary Bouton and her performance, which also drew attention and respect from her peers, cast members and coaches.

The opening scene introduced us to an older performer, Dallin Salway, portraying Charlie Brown. Salway’s soft voice sounded very innocent and although he started off talking rather quickly, he eventually slowed down, becoming acclimated and nailed the Charlie Brown personality. His performance was keen on playing to his audience by making constant eye contact and demanding feedback in the forms and laughter and giggles.

The main character of Schultz’s “Peanuts” and the most famous of them is Charlie Brown. However it was Lucy who stole the show and gave us the performance to remember. Bouton, 17, sang her heart out and screamed her lungs out as she took on the role of Lucy van Pelt, an obnoxious loud-mouth who at times can be aggressive. Bouton showed zero lack of confidence in her abilities in allowing her voice to be heard. Her vocals blended eerily well with the angry outbursts that left plenty of ears ringing.

Bouton’s voice has much more clarity and cleanliness than other performers and projected her voice across the open room to begin her first solo song of the evening, “Schroeder.” It was quite entertaining, leaving us wanting more of her quirky and wild tone of voice. After the captivating opening song, sang by Lucy van Pelt, the audience had smiles on their faces and were ready to continue the fun with Charlie Brown and his friends.

What came after the refreshing ballads were perfect monologues, soliloquies, and theme songs targeting the young children scattered in the audience. With duets by Sally and Schroeder, as well as Linus, Snoopy, and Charlie Brown, the music seemed to be exactly what everyone had expected when coming to see the performance.

Behind Bouton’s A-plus effort and the gentle voice of Schroder, played by Nathan Salway, the chemistry of the cast radiated out into the auditorium surrounded by amazing audio production. The classic “Peanuts” theme song belted from the piano keys and reminded us all of how young we were reminiscing our first run-in with Charlie Brown and the “Peanuts.” Whether reading the comic strip in the local newspaper or watching the television set during holidays, that melody served as time machine and allowed many to venture back into their childhood.

As the journey continued, Charlie Brown gave us another song with mellow vocals and relaxing on-stage movements while performing “The Kite Song.” Another top-ranked ballad of the performance was “The Book Report,” as we were introduced to the wonderful young voice of Alyssa Martin, who played the high-pitched voice of Sally. Martin, like her fellow cast members, nailed the role. She was bold, loud, graceful, and easy to like. Martin showed off her vocals and songs through using her tone of voice to capture life in her character.

After establishing that Lucy van Pelt isn’t the only star, Sally proved she can sound mesmerizing in unison or by herself with the audience. As the two female co-stars start to run away with the show, Schroeder appears and reminds us that CenterStage is full of young talent, with no intention to disappoint us. In this scene, it’s the chemistry of Lucy and Schroeder, and Sally and Schroeder that show that his confidence is what makes him such a promising, young talent.

With non-stop energy, the charisma of the cast didn’t seem to die off at any point in the performance. The audience didn’t need a water break. We were still being serenaded with solos, another duet, and one more monologue for Charlie as we had to then break for intermission.

A solemn Snoopy brought us back from intermission, leading into the middle of the story and the middle of Act II, where we witnessed breakthrough performances that seemed to come at us from every direction. Even after enjoying nearly seven songs in Act II that showcased superb choreography, vocal range, and still the innate ability to develop and maintain chemistry between performers, some of the story was left was unread. Some chapters were also left unwritten, which leads the audience to believe that they will see more talent put on display by CenterStage.

The songs in Act II were much more diverse as they brought up at least 15 more characters on stage at one point and even used props to up the ante and push the fun envelope to the edge of the stage. The atmosphere was a creative one, not knowing what to expect from an original song being manipulated into a modern youth funhouse.

In her post-performance statement, Bouton alluded to her Broadway dreams.

“Well, I hope to perform on Broadway,” Bouton said. “My sister did it, and she got me into performing when I was 12. I’ve been doing it ever since.”

She also thanked the audience as she smiled alongside her fellow cast mates.

“I want everyone to show up and support local theatre,” Bouton said.

It’s her passion, and she plans to further her performing arts education this time next year after graduating from Sierra Charter School in Fresno.

She helped cap off a wonderful experience for all involved. The preparation and the execution was nearly flawless. The last several songs were performed by gathering a multitude of fellow cast members onstage to help finish off the already masterfully directed show.

Overall, the performing arts cast of CenterStage Community Theatre delivered an original and creative experience that left positive vibes floating throughout the lobby nearly an hour after the curtain call.

Tickets for the next event are available online on the Brown Paper Tickets website and in person at Sierra Vista Mall or at the door of the Clovis District Memorial Auditorium.