By Rebecca Zimmerman, Staff Writer
After sweeping the stage with “Shrek” and “Les Miserables,” Pauper Players returns with “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” to what it does best: intimate musical theatre.
This time the student theatre group gets closer than ever, transforming the stage of McAlister Auditorium into a box theatre. Fans who got there early could snag a purple seat surrounding the miniscule stage-within-a-stage and sit within inches of the actors, feeling their intensity as never before.
The stage itself promises to provide Peanuts enthusiasts with reverence. The lighting panels of varying sizes bring back the nostalgic feel of Charles Schultz’s original comic strip. Schroeder’s undersized piano and Snoopy’s fire-engine-red doghouse take center stage.
Still, what really brings the beloved Charlie Brown story to life are the characters themselves. While they may not have the hair colors or exact costumes fans are used to seeing, the actors bring Sally’s naivety and Lucy’s brashness to life.
Embodying Charlie Brown’s painful anxiety, crippling depression, sadly hilarious awkwardness and characteristic ironic joy, junior Ryan Holub draws out the character’s attraction as an “everyman“ individual. Every procrastinator, self-doubter, hopeless crusher and lonely college student can connect to Charlie Brown’s experience and, in laughing at him or sighing with him, reach catharsis of their of their own.
Alex Mason and Bradwin Amos, who you might remember as last year’s Donkey and Shrek, lead the cast in singing talent as Schroeder and Linus Van Pelt. Mason’s voice soars through the jazz riffs in “Beethoven Day,” reminding all in the audience exactly why he is a vocal performance major. Meanwhile, Pauper Players’ president Cody Evins brings pawfuls of comic relief as Charlie Brown’s universally loved, dramatic dog, Snoopy. With all of his on-stage acrobatics, it is amazing that his doghouse does not come crashing down beneath him. Look out for his surprisingly sexy dance moves in “Suppertime.”
The production itself, based on the revised production by Clark Gesner, Michael Mayer and Andrew Lippa, pulls out the existential themes of Schultz’s comic strip, asking questions like why individuals matters and how people can live with their flaws while reassuring the audience of his characteristic belief in happiness and love in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” If there is not a smile on your face and a warm glow in your heart by the end of the play’s last song, “Happiness,” you need to watch the show again.