Lovable Lucy, with hardened edges
by Robert Feldberg, On Stage column

The Record (Bergen County, NJ)
January 31, 1999

   Actors like to be liked. Most of them like their characters to be
liked , or at least understood.

So when "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" started its out-of-town
road to Broadway, where it opens Thursday night at the Ambassador
Theater, Ilana Levine tried to soften the edges of Lucy, the little
girl who is the bane of poor Charlie Brown's existence.

Lucy, as anybody who's read the "Peanuts" comic strip in the last
50 years knows, can be irritating, manipulative, and insensitive.

"Trying to make her sweeter was the biggest disaster of my life,"
said Levine.  "People love to hate Lucy."

The actress, who appeared on Broadway last season in "The Last
Night of Ballyhoo," quickly hardened Lucy's edges, "I had to stay true
to her agenda; that's who she is", and the audience responded.  "The
bossier and crabbier she is, the more people laugh."

But that doesn't mean Levine, who grew up in Teaneck, has given in
to the popular conception of Lucy as the vinegar in the "Peanuts" stew.

"She's an ambitious person, with a really incredible sense of
humor," said Levine.  "I started reading the strip when I was a kid, and
I always got her humor. She's not mean; she's just honest. She's also a
real feminist; I like to think of her as a Gloria Steinem ahead of her

Levine even thinks of Lucy as a role model for little girls, a
trailblazer.  "She barges right in; she doesn't worry about rejection."

For the actress, as big a challenge as playing a, let's face it,
not very lovable little girl (all the kids, and Snoopy, are portrayed by
adults) was the matter of singing. She'd never done a musical before,
but auditioned anyway.

"Luckily, they were interested in actors who could play the
characters," she said.  "If you could carry a tune, you were OK."

So Levine's initiative paid off. Lucy definitely would approve.

GRAPHIC: PHOTO - Anthony Rapp is Charlie Brown; Ilana Levine is Lucy, thorn in his side.

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