Monday, July 23, 2012

Westside Theatre: "Your a Good Man, Charlie Brown"

Counting Valentines: Sally (Ashlee Waldbauer) and 
Charlie Brown (Jimmy Holland)
Photo by Ammon Riley
"You're a Good, Man Charlie Brown" plays with two casts at Beaverton Civic Theatre

By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker


For someone charged with evaluating a show, it is rarely good news that the production is “double cast” (has two separate groups of actors).

However, having seen the first cast of Beaverton Civic Theatre’s “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” we were surprisingly enthusiastic about seeing the show the following week with a different set of actors. Veteran Director Milli Hoelscher’s unorthodox casting choice derives not from her inability to select the “best” cast, but from her ability to envision two very different productions of the same show, using actors whose age and theatrical experience vary wildly.

 Beth Noelle as Lucy
July 20th, we saw the “Charlie” cast, comprised primarily of actors in their mid- to late-teens. July 27th, we saw the “Snoopy” cast, peopled by seasoned actors, some of whom bring decades of experience and formal training to the stage. And, of course, all of them are playing the roles of Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” gang – five very young children and one world-weary beagle.

“You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” is a musical about children, and it is accessible to young children (there were several in the audience, and they clearly enjoyed the show) but it is not, strictly speaking, a “children’s show” any more than the “Peanuts” comic is a “children’s” strip.  Through a series of vignettes, some philosophically whimsical and some extremely funny, the actors explore the role of friendship and peer relations in guiding children down the often-confusing path toward adulthood.


Scott Kelly as “Snoopy”


“CHARLIE” CAST

Jimmy Holland’s “Charlie Brown” anchors the show with convincing angst; his fine singing voice shines in both ensemble and solo vocals. Whitney Martin (“Lucy”) plays Charlie’s nemesis to the hilt – brash, brazen, and self-centered. Her extensive theatrical background really shows – she projects a great speaking and singing voice, and her comic timing is excellent. Mitchell Kelly (“Schroeder”) creates the proper intellectual feel for a child prodigy, while reacting with boyish horror to Lucy’s undying passion. BCT veteran Scott Kelly (“Snoopy”) gets the best laughs, many in response to his flamboyantly physical dancing and his comic delivery, particularly when he howls. Rafe Larsen (“Linus”) is also a scene-stealer when he dances – his gangly frame and supple partner (his cherished blanket) allow him to explore a variety of terpsichorean oddities to great comic effect. Last, but by no means least, Ashlee Waldbauer (“Sally”) brings to the role a charmingly childish locution with a solid singing voice and an impossible level of cuteness.


“SNOOPY” CAST

Tom Young as Charlie Brown
Advance note to directors planning a show for July, 2016 – do NOT schedule your opening for the same date as the opening of the summer Olympics! The “Snoopy” cast’s first night audience, a small but mighty band of theater lovers, was treated to a gold medal performance that not only shone, it sparkled. The vocal ensemble work is polished and powerful – by itself, worth the price of admission. Music director Josh Pounders (who also plays Snoopy) is to be congratulated for his fine work in shaping the vocal dynamics of this gathering of experienced talent. 

Pounders’ performance as Snoopy is also impressive – his jerks, twitches, and scratching capture the essential “dogness” of the role, his fine tenor voice anchors much of the vocal ensemble, and he delivers a truly memorable Red Baron monologue. Nick Hauser’s Schroeder is unlike any we have seen before – he brings to the role an intensity that made us really believe he is obsessed with Beethoven and all things arcane (especially his Robin Hood soliloquy in “The Book Report”). Beth Noelle (“Lucy,”) while hopelessly enamored of Schroeder, never loses sight of her primary obsession with herself. She IS the queen, and never allows the audience to forget it. Lucy’s little brother Linus, as portrayed by Lincoln Thomas, is wise beyond his years and provides a perfect foil to his sister’s egomaniacal ranting. Jessica Reed (“Sally”) is simply hilarious – her timing is precise, vocal inflections spot-on, and she shows great skill in physical comedy. Tom Young is superbly cast as Charlie Brown – alternatively pathetic, philosophical, self-effacing, yet eternally hopeful that despite evidence to the contrary, things will somehow work out right. Young is a fine actor who brings a surprising depth of character to this comic-strip role.

Mitchell Kelly (“Schroeder”) and Whitney Martin (“Lucy”)
Accompanist David Rivas is the only performer who appears in both casts, and for this we are immensely grateful. He is a superb musician whose deft piano work moves the show along as surely as Hoelscher’s fine direction.  The sets are simple but effective, appropriate to the minimalist style of Schulz’s comic strip.

The two casts are alternating dates throughout the run of the show, so there is ample opportunity for “Peanuts” fans, musical theater buffs, and those wishing to introduce their kids to live theater to see either (or both!) casts.

“You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” is playing at the Beaverton City Library Auditorium through August 5th. Remaining performances of the “Charlie” cast are 8/3 at 8:00 p.m. and 8/5 at 2:00 p.m.  The “Snoopy” cast appears 7/27 at 8:00 p.m., 7/28 at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., 7/29 at 2:00 p.m., and 8/4 at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.



Monday, July 2, 2012

The Sound of Music at Broadway Rose



Broadway Rose hits all the right notes with a classic

A 'flawless' Maria leads the production that boasts impressive sets and some 'unexpected' yet welcome characterizations


By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker

Within the last two weeks, we have had the honor of seeing the current generation of von Trapp Family Singers (they were absolutely fantastic!) and the pleasure of seeing Broadway Rose’s fine production of “The Sound of Music” – the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic loosely based on the story of the original singing von Trapp family.

Perhaps more than any other classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “The Sound of Music” is a singer’s show, and thus a perfect fit for Broadway Rose. Under the musical direction of Alan D. Lytle, the vocal ensembles were often stunning, especially the numbers featuring the amazing harmonies and dynamics of the nuns’ chorus. Lytle also capitalized on the singing ability of his leads, most of whom delivered consistently superb solo performances.

Leah Yorkson’s “Maria” was a delight – charming and vocally flawless. Her playful interaction with the children captured the essence of Maria’s duality – a na├»ve child-woman able to relate to the youngest, mentor the older children, and ultimately respond passionately to Captain von Trapp. In addition, she’s a first-class trouper whose professionalism shone during recurring microphone problems in the first act (which happily were resolved by intermission). Imagine singing “Lonely Goatherd” to a packed house when your mic fails (and the other seven don’t). Without missing a beat, she amplified her projection and more than held her own. Kudos also to conductor Lytle and his orchestra for immediately adjusting the musical volume.

Isaac Lamb gave one of the best interpretations we have seen of Captain von Trapp – less martinet and more paternal, which made his growing affection for Maria more believable. Lamb made it easy to understand why, despite several years of emotional remoteness, his children still eagerly sought his attention and approval. In addition, his smooth baritone added a powerful foundation to the ensemble numbers.

David Sargent (“Max Detweiler”) and Jami Chatalas Blanchard (“Elsa Schrader”) lent their considerable comedic talents to the production, taking a bit of the edge off the descending darkness of the Nazi takeover. Sargent’s “Max” was urbane, effete, and self-effacing without going over the top, and Blanchard’s “Elsa” was more self-consciously wry than devious and scheming – an unexpected and welcome touch.

Other standout performances included Lindsay Jolliff (“Liesl”) and Collin Carver (“Rolf”), whose rendition of “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” gave them the opportunity to display both their vocal and dance skills. Margie Boule (“Mother Abbess”) soared in her rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” but her singing was not the only strength she brought to the role – she displayed a sensitivity and empathy that really brought the character to life. Of course, the von Trapp children en masse were bubbly and charming, and their enthusiasm kept the audience engaged throughout.

Director Sharon Maroney set a rapid pace that kept a long show moving nicely (the production included all of the songs written for the original Broadway cast). Her grasp of both the characters and the era ensured that her actors conveyed the show’s many themes. As we have grown to expect with Broadway Rose, the sets and lighting were superb.

For those who are not familiar with “The Sound of Music” this is a great introduction – and for those who know and love the show, it is a lovely visit with a dear friend.


“The Sound of Music” plays June 28th through July 22nd at Tigard High School’s Deb Fennell Auditorium.  Evening performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Sundays, and on Saturdays, July 14 and 21. The Deb Fennell Auditorium is located at 9000 SW Durham Road in Tigard. Tickets start at $30 for adults, with discounts available for groups and youth. For a full listing of show performances or to order tickets visit www.broadwayrose.org or call the box office at 503.620.5262.