Welcome back, Charlie Brown. You’re still a good man and just as endearing as before as evidenced in Sinclair Community College’s delightful return engagement of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Eric Schaeffer’s faithful adaptation of Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson’s humorous, touching and inspiring 1965 Emmy Award-winning holiday special of the same name by “Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz.
As the frenzy of the holiday rush escalates, it’s great to be reminded of the beautiful simplicity within this terrific tale frankly pinpointing the true reasons for the season. Disappointed and extremely bothered by Christmas growing increasingly commercial, Charlie Brown takes it upon himself to get to the heart of the matter despite cynics and his own reservations. And in doing so, he ultimately discovers the power of goodwill wrapped in the enduring value of love, friendship and faith.
“Charlie Brown Christmas” retains much of the same splendid artistic team that impressively conceived Schulz’s wonderfully relatable world last season. Gina Kleesattel’s breezy, astute direction excellently complements the vibrant, expertly cartoon-inspired visuals of scenic designer Terry Stump and costumer Kathleen Hotmer. Choreographer Rodney Veal also adds appealing familiarity ensuring the cast dances Vince Guaraldi’s iconic “Linus and Lucy” with unique glee. Music director/keyboardist Katherine Frauman’s three-piece band (including bassist Briana Pepilascov-Childers and drummer Kerry Kennard) also handles Guaraldi’s timeless jazz score with ease.
Kleesattel’s committed, entertaining 11-member cast, a mix of returning players and newcomers, effectively captures the physicality and expressions seen in the cartoon while incorporating their own nuances. Jonathan Kelly, in a strong Sinclair debut, supplies an amiably worrisome aura befitting the troubled Charlie. Greyson Calvert, spunky and animated, is a comically mischievous Snoopy. An appropriately demanding Erin Waldon brings a funny, frantic energy to the opinionated Lucy. The magnetic David Brandt, a sensitive and compassionate presence, meaningfully recites the Gospel of Luke with tender delicacy. Spencer Boden charms as the perturbed, introverted Schroeder. Bryana Bentley, a memorable Janet Weiss earlier this season in Sinclair’s “The Rocky Horror Show,” scores laughs as the peppy Sally. Thomas Puckett (Pig Pen), Marley Judd (Frieda), Chelsea Overman (Violet), Brooke Watson (Patty), and Jesse MaGill (Shermy) are equally carefree and lighthearted.
Whether you saw it last season or would like to see it again, “Charlie Brown Christmas” is a family-friendly, adorably nostalgic experience you’re bound to enjoy.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” continues today at 12 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. in Blair Hall Theatre, Building 2, Sinclair Community College, 444 W. Third St., Dayton. The production is performed in 35 minutes. Tickets are $8. For tickets or more information, call (937) 512-2808 or visit www.sinclair.edu/tickets. In addition, a special “shadowing” ASL performance will be provided for today’s performance (interpreters follow actors onstage while interpreting instead of being located off to the side of the action). Interpreters include Katie Fritz, Maria Vecchi, Laura Wild, and Amy Sabin. Also, the regular house policy of “no children under 6” has been lifted. All patrons, regardless of age, must have a ticket.