SECTION: News; Theater Review; Pg. 2
HEADLINE: 'Charlie Brown' revival brings Peanuts to life
BYLINE: Dann Gire Daily Herald Film Critic
BODY: Broadway's in for a big treat when a new revamped version of the 1967 musical "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" hits the core of the Big Apple next year.
Meanwhile, the show continues its pre-Broadway run through Saturday
at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Golf and Skokie roads
in Skokie. Tickets ($ 46 to $ 48) can be
purchased at the box office at (847) 673-6300 or by calling Ticketmaster at (312) 902-1500.
Under the snappy direction of Michael Mayer, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" becomes an animated, singing comic strip complete with primary color washes in the background and all the props outlined in black.
In a series of disjunctive vignettes (just like Charles Schulz's source material), the Peanuts gang takes to the footlights once more, but this time they've dumped Pattie and added Charlie Brown's little sister Sally.
What a mustang, Sally.
Kristin Chenoweth plays Sally with laser-beam intensity and Swiss-calibrated comic timing. Armed with a new song and plenty of little-kid-attitude to spare, Chenoweth cuts loose with "My New Philosophy" and polishes it into a show-stopping gem.
Chenoweth's rival for leader of this pack has to be Roger Bart as Snoopy,
Charlie Brown's personality-plus puppy. Bart, a cross between Steve Martin
and Scott Bacula, creates an engagingly self-possessed canine with amusing
and wisely underplayed doggie
The ever-versatile B.D. Wong's take on the blanket-gripping, thumb-sucking
Linus is nothing short of fun. Joliet native
Anthony Rapp makes a perfect blockhead as Charlie Brown. With his wide-open eyes and his mouth in that perceptual Schulz scrunch, Rapp makes his character as blah as he can be without turning invisible.
Stanley Wayne Mathis delivers a functional Schroeder, but doesn't have much to work with. As the forceful Lucy, Ilana Levin has trouble keeping her little-kid persona consistent, but this girl can shout.
"You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" retains it two best numbers "Happiness" and "Suppertime," and has a crackerjack five-piece pit to go with them. The show also boasts some inventive staging (Snoopy's fight with the Red Baron is a hoot) and a few feats of stage tech magic.
But the show's best asset might well never be seen by the public. Kimberly Grigsby, the triple-threat conductor, keyboardist and backup vocalist, attacks her work with such power, commitment and entertainingly fluid movement, it's a shame the pit doesn't have a spotlight on her.
GRAPHIC: Snoopy (Roger Bart) takes to the skies against the Red
Baron in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." Photo by Carol Rosegg
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