Review by Lucy Lawler, Saint Ursula Academy Cappies Critic Team
Good Grief! Miami Valley Christian Academy delivered a charming and cheerful performance of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."
Premiering in 1967, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" serves as a beloved tribute to the classic comics of Charles M. Schulz. The tale focuses on Charlie and his inability to understand why his friends label him as a "good man." As the show progresses, the characters face a plethora of problems: Lucy questions her personality, Schroeder struggles to convey the majesty of music, Sally tries to find a new philosophy, and Snoopy can't seem to catch the elusive Red Baron. But with humor and heart, the gang comes to a compelling conclusion: happiness is right around the corner.
Miami Valley Christian Academy's production was driven by both care and commitment. The talented cast and crew exhibited a constant sense of energy and worked efficiently to overcome minor obstacles.
As implied by the title, no rendition of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" would be complete without the lovable 'loser' himself. Leading the cast was Max Hunkler who succeeded in capturing Charlie's determination and diffidence. Hunkler's performance was wonderfully sincere and accentuated the character's gentle heart. The actor also exuded authenticity, especially when he tackled Charlie's vast anxiety in songs such as "The Baseball Game." Assisting Charlie Brown on his journey to happiness was Jillian Beasley in the role of Lucy. Fully embracing her character's crabbiness, Beasley was a force onstage. Whether she was hurling insults or cracking jokes, the actress was always formidable and fierce.
The supporting cast worked seamlessly to create and maintain the musical's vivacious atmosphere. Gunnar Shoemake, who portrayed Linus, put a comedic spin on the classic character. Shoemake's humorous antics were unmistakable during "My Blanket and Me," a song in which Linus serenades his comforting coverlet. Poised and passionate, the actor sung with a love comparable to that of Romeo and Juliet. Sarah Schott delighted as the savvy Snoopy, especially when it came to jazzy musical numbers such as "Suppertime." As a whole, the entire Peanuts Gang brought something unique and interesting to the stage.
Of course, creating the colorful and bright world of Charlie Brown was no easy feat. The interactive set, conceived by MVCA's Behind the Scenes Class, mimicked the panels of a comic strip. Complete with a functioning slide and a spiffy set of ladders, the scenic design allowed for a childish sense of wonder. The cartoon characters' faces were even etched onto the scrim, which served as a captivating connection to the original source material. The lighting, executed by Nathan Bush and Max Mitchell, utilized over 200 individual cues throughout the production. Strong colors emphasized each character's fluctuating moods, and the selective use of silhouette added depth to the narrative.
Full of life and laughter, "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" offered a new perspective on what it means to be moral. In fact, Miami Valley's production wasn't just good: it was excellent.
Review by Elizabeth Volk, Saint Ursula Academy’s Cappies Critic Team
In today's digital world, reading a print newspaper is seen as a relic of the past. However, nestled inside of the black-and-white news stories is a colorful, entertaining section: the comics. They elicit joy and laughter from their readers and often connect them to their inner child. By admirably bringing the humorous world of comic strips to life, Miami Valley Christian Academy's production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" dove into the bright, innocent world of childhood.
Adapted from the popular comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, this musical presents all of the familiar characters on missions of self-discovery. Lucy wonders if she is actually a bully, while her younger brother Linus considers if he truly needs his security blanket. Meanwhile, Sally explores new philosophies, and Snoopy dreams of escaping his repetitive life. Connecting all of these vignettes is Charlie Brown who, despite his averageness, desperately tries to find the meaning of living a good life. Through his interactions with the Peanut's Gang that mirror iconic comic strips, he learns the meaning of happiness.
Anchoring Miami Valley Christian Academy's production was the cast's deeply detailed performances. From the emotional ballads to the show-stopping production numbers, each cast member created specific characters. Their acting was stellar, truly bringing the caricatures to life while rooting them in realism.
Leading the cast as Charlie Brown, Max Hunkler embodied the anxieties of being unexceptional. His expressive voice and dynamic facial expressions conveyed a multitude of emotions, from despondency over receiving no valentines to elation at successfully flying a kite. Commanding the stage as Lucy was Jillian Beasley. Her nuanced performance humanized the often-vilified girl, expressing Lucy's hopes of Schroeder reciprocating her love and her insecurities about being seen as a bully. Gunnar Shoemake's performance as Linus combined an adult's wisdom with a child's innocent worldview. In his musical ode to his blanket, he wonderfully articulated his ideal world where childish elements like security blankets were accepted.
Sarah Schott's lighthearted portrayal of Snoopy balanced out the deeper moments in the show. She dramatized the joys of "Suppertime" in an elaborate number that showcased her powerful voice and acting. Complimenting Schott's performance was Haley Page as Woodstock. While she never spoke a word, she developed relationships with the plot and the other characters through her pantomime skills and stage presence.
The wonderful technical elements also brought the comic to life. Grant Patterson and the Behind the Scenes class created six large panels that emulated a comic strip's format. The rest of the set also emulated the comic's look, with Snoopy's doghouse and the larger-than-life mailbox standing out for their bright colors and craftsmanship. The lights, by Nathan Bush and Max Mitchell, complimented the show's themes. They reflected Charlie Brown's loneliness by lighting him separately from the other characters.
Overall, Miami Valley Christian Academy's production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" commendably balanced the comic's hilarity and gravity. While newspapers are seen as an artifact today, this production brought new life to the comics enshrined within them by examining the world through a child's eyes.
Review by Ella Terrell, Ursuline Academy Cappies Critic Team
Everyone in the audience wanted to celebrate "Beethoven Day" after Miami Valley Christian Academy's production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." More importantly, the cast and crew taught their audience an important lesson about being good.
The show, based on Charles M. Schulz's "Peanuts," premiered in New York in 1967. It starts with the characters praising Charlie Brown as a good man. Throughout the show, each of the Peanuts faces their own personal struggles, and Charlie Brown questions if he really is good. The show ends with Charlie Brown's profound realization that he, just like the Little Red-Haired Girl, is human and therefore, good.
All of the cast members in the show took advantage of every moment on the stage. Max Hunkler (Charlie Brown) had to sing and talk to the audience in several scenes when no other characters were on stage. Despite this challenging task, Hunkler made it feel as if he were having a conversation with his audience which brought a level of intimacy to his character. One of the female leads, Jillian Beasly (Lucy), was as arrogant and crabby as can be in the best way possible. Her performance made the audience remember what makes Lucy a loveable character despite her many flaws. Beasly's performance exceeded expectations and was as unforgettable as her character's iconic psychiatrist booth.
As for Lucy's little brother Linus, Gunner Shoemake brought an unmatched energy to the stage. Everyone could hear giggling children as Shoemake passionately danced with his blanket. Sarah Schott (Snoopy) demonstrated her astounding singing voice during "Suppertime." She also had many moments in the show where she made Snoopy's dramatic flair shine.
As for Gabe Bennet and the crew, every element used highlighted both the story and actors on stage. Even when problems arose, they would be fixed in a timely manner, and the audience would barely notice. The simple 'comic strip' set allowed for quick scene changes and gave the stage a clean and orderly appearance. The quick scene changes can also be accredited to organization backstage. The other set pieces used were easily moved, and many were painted to look like they came straight out of a Peanuts' comic. All of the Schulz fans in the audience could instantly recognize Lucy's psychiatric help stand, Schroder's piano, and Snoopy's doghouse.
The lighting designer, Nathan Bush, worked with the set to make everything all come together. Each of the six compartments in the "comic strip" had their own lights with full RGB capabilities. The colors would change to match the characters currently on the stage and add to the mood, like in "Snoopy" where the lights would flash each time the music would crescendo. Bush also filled the theater with lights at a few points in the play; during "Happiness", the lights made the audience connect with the characters.
Because of the outstanding cast and crew, Miami Valley Christian Academy put on an unforgettable performance of "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" to match the unforgettable Peanuts gang.
Excerpts from Top Reviews
“A particular actress that stood out vocally was Sarah Schott who played Snoopy, the fun-loving pet dog of Charlie Brown. Her voice never faltered as she was able to find the balance between acting and singing without fail. She was accompanied by Gunnar Shoemaker who played Linus. His enthusiasm was top notch. He was able to make you feel as if you were dancing alongside him.” -Sydney Cardwell, Roger Bacon High School
“The crew's attention to detail was evident through lighting matched to the characters' costumes and personalities, a comic-strip inspired set, and movable set pieces such as Snoopy's doghouse. Plywood boxes were constructed to allow the actors to perform in a life-sized comic strip that doubled as a clever homage to the original Charles M. Schulz comics.”
-Rosie Schuermann, Saint Ursula Academy
“Max Hunkler led the cast as Charlie Brown With strong, emotional vocals and a joyful innocence, Hunkler gave an outstanding performance with his vocal control and acting skills. Jillian Beasley impressed with her acting skills, adding depth to her previously stagnant character, Lucy, with her emotion.”
-Samantha Flerlage, Mariemont High School
“With the limits given to the technical crew, it was a wonder to see the performance come together so well! The lighting crew understood everything on their plate and made sure everything resulted in a memorable production. The set was built intricately by using boxes to illustrate a comic book effect. Finally, the stage crew was sharp with the scene changes, while the stage management demonstrated the organization needed for the presentation.”
-Lukas Hummeldorf, Notre Dame Academy
“Everyone's favorite pup, Snoopy, was played by Sarah Schott, and it was clear her energy led the cast through many of the songs. Even though Sarah Schott is only a sophomore, her talent shined the whole duration of the production. After the song "Snoopy" in the first act, the audience was left waiting to hear her breathtaking voice again in Act Two. "Snoopy" was a crowd favorite, but the true show-stopping number was "Suppertime." "Suppertime" had everyone's attention and encouraged everyone to get involved.” -Taylor Zureick, Roger Bacon High School
“The lighting effects were brilliant at the beginning of the musical. The way they had each individual squared room a different color really gave the feeling of childlike wonder. at the end of the show, there was a dazzling effect of stars during the last song, "Happiness," which caused the audience to look all around as the sparkling lights filled the theatre, and the whole cast came together one last time.”
-Chloe Rack, Ross High School
“Lucy's lovable little brother Linus, played by Gunnar Shoemake, performed an inspiring and passionate anthem devoted to his one true love, the blue blanket. During "My Blanket and Me," Shoemake's melodramatics added a whole new level of ridiculousness to this already outrageous number. Satirical humor was utilized by Jackson Guin as he played Schroder, the Beethoven enthusiast. Guin's deapan attitude balanced out Linus's hysterics and established Schroder's status as the resident edgy musician.”
-Anna Nappi, Saint Ursula Academy
About The Cappies of Greater Cincinnati
The Critics and Awards Program strives to recognize Greater Cincinnati’s talented community of young writers, performers, and technical crews. High school theatre and journalism students who participate in the Cappies program are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, and write and publish reviews. At the end of the school year, the student critics vote to give awards to their fellow students for outstanding productions, group and individual performances, and achievements in technical categories. Awards are presented at the annual Cappies Gala. Find more reviews at CinciCap.com/reviews.