By Yena Seo
What is true happiness? Is it flying a kite, becoming a queen and ruling over loyal subjects, perfecting “Chopin’s Nocturne in B-flat” on the piano after months of practicing? The cast and crew of J.E.B. Stuart High School explore this age-old question in their uplifting and delightful production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
The 1967 musical, with music and lyrics by Clark Gesner, is based on the famous comic strip series “Peanuts,” created by Charles M. Schulz.
Your’e a Good Man Charlie Brown captures the hearts of people of all ages in a series of vignettes that chronicle the adventures of the “peanut gallery” tackling the struggles of friendship, honesty and romance in their everyday lives.
Anchoring the show was performer Sam Williams as the titular character of Charlie Brown. Williams carried the production with his impressive vocals and exquisite ensemble chemistry. He connected audience members with the awkwardness and nervousness of his character as he admired “the Little Redheaded Girl” from afar, pursued his high flying aspirations in attempting to successfully fly a kite, and coped with devastation and hopelessness when his team lost their Little League baseball game. Williams’ honest and sincere performance separated him from the rest of the cast and spotlighted him as an extremely skilled performer.
Elizabeth Burr shone as she bounced around the stage, masterfully playing Sally with high-pitched vocal tones and playful physicality. Burr picked up the energy at rare times when it dwindled and showcased her soaring vocals in numbers like “My New Philosophy.” Aria Nawab evoked laughter as piano prodigy Schroeder. Using animated facial expressions and witty delivery, he stood out as one of the most memorable characters in the play. Ali Cheraghpour was adorable as the thumb-sucking, blanket-obsessed Linus Van Pelt. As an ensemble, the actors created a cohesive, believable dynamic in musical numbers like “Beethoven Day” and “Book Report.” Though motivation and blocking seemed weak at points, the entire cast stayed dedicated to their characters and the overall production.
Channeling the simplicity required of the show, the technical elements served as some of the major highlights of the production. The set, composed of magnificently painted panels, gave off a comic strip like feel, while oversized set pieces like the couch were purposefully designed to reflect the youthfulness of the characters. Props and costumes danced a matchy-matchy jig as every character held notebooks and pencils that corresponded to the color of his or her outfit. The orchestra hit every note perfectly, and there were minimal sound issues.
From the moment Charlie Brown woke up late to school in Act I, to the final bows, J.E.B. Stuart High School’s production was filled with childlike innocence and infectious energy. With a spectacular combination of dazzling technical elements, fantastic vocals and brilliant acting, the talented cast and crew of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” succeeded in reminding audience members to seek out the things in life, whether big or small, that bring true happiness.
Yena Seo is a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and a member of Cappies, the Critics and Awards Program for High School Theatre and Journalism.