By Bob Evans
For years, the classic TV cartoon, A Charlie Brown Christmas delights young and old alike annually when the show airs, and even though it’s well-received and loved by generations, nothing compares to the live action version of the classic that opened Friday, Nov. 10 at The Coterie Theatre inside Kansas City’s Crown Center.
A capacity crowd welcomed the play for the second time in Coterie history, with the first successful production a few year ago. This time, the Peanuts gang return with several local actors reprising their roles, but some new, very talented actors joining in for this year’s holiday production.
Charlie Brown opens the show and expresses his disappointment that he just does not understand the hype of Christmas and seems to be over-thinking the situation. Seeking help, he sees Dr. Lucy, pays her his nickel, and still does not feel any better. So, Lucy asks him to direct their Christmas pageant, where he is given the task of selecting the
Christmas tree for the show. As the show progresses, all the other characters express their Christmas anticipation while Charlie and Linus hunt for the prefect tree. Finally, Charlie Brown, a.k.a. C.B. find a tree that needs love, and bring it back for the show. Charlie Brown’s selection disappoints the cast, but the spirit of Christmas and love transform the tree (with the help of Snoopy) and so, Christmas for the Peanuts gang is saved. No surprises here. Everyone knows the story, but the magic comes as this troupe of
adult actors create a heart-warming rendition of the story and draw the audience into the simple charm and excitement of Christmas through the eyes of youth.
“Capturing all the appeal, wit and wisdom of the 1965 animated special, the stage adaptation of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ brings to life the whole Peanuts gang, including Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, and Lucy. The production also features a live jazz trio playing Vince Guaraldi’s original musical arrangements, including the Peanuts theme Linus and Lucy, ‘Christmas
Time Is Here,’ and all the favorites from the holiday classic. Additionally, every performance ends with a special encore of Snoopy’s Christmas, which tells the tale of Snoopy’s Christmas Eve encounter with the Red Baron. Originally released by The Royal Guardsmen in 1967, the show-stopping number celebrates its 50th anniversary this fall,” according to The Coterie spokesperson.
Top-notched, polished, charming, funny, touching, Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang come to entertain, the audience, and they succeed from the opening ice-skating scene through a dance party at the end of the show. Justin Barron leads the cast as Charlie Brown in a beautifully developed characterization where he captures the innocence of Charlie Brown as CB ponders the real reason for the season so steeped in commercialism. As Lucy, Show Ruffin brings a bossy, yet sweet adult-thinking Lucy, always ready to hand out advice and take charge. Tony Pulford portrays Linus for the second time and melts the audience with his wide-eyed
innocence and delivery of The Christmas Story. R.H. Wilhout dusts up the set with his PigPen character and just delights the crowd as dust fies from his hair. He just looks the part of the cartoon character and he plays it so well. And then, there is man’s best friend, Snoopy. The overly-intelligent and trusty Beagle just bounces with puppy-like joy, decorates with glee, and even fights the Red Baron in a fun interlude after the actual play ends. Evan Lovelace, makes Snoopy as much a part of the Peanuts gang as CB and Lucy. Even though “A Charlie Brown Christmas” serves as children’s theatre, the professionalism of the actors makes the show come alive for everyone who attends.
Kansas City is truly blessed with theaters that produce children’s theater with professional adult actors and make theater alive and educational for younger audiences.
The cast of A Charlie Brown Christmas features Justin Barron (as Charlie Brown), Evan J. Lovelace (as Snoopy), Shon Ruffin (as Lucy), Tony Pulford (as Linus), R.H. Wilhoit (as Pigpen), Darcie A. Hingula and Mia Grace McManamy (sharing the role of Frieda), Vincent Wagner (as Schroeder), Ai Vy Bui (as Violet), Deanna Mazdra (as Sally), David LeVota (as Shermy), and musicians Gary Adams (pianist), Sam Wisman (bassist), and Jeff Harshbarger (percussionist) as the live jazz trio.
Information provided by The Coterie:
The Coterie, now in its 39th Season and named “One of the Five Best Theaters for Young audiences in the U.S.” by TIME magazine, will perform A Charlie Brown Christmas November 7 – December 31, 2017, in The Coterie Theatre, located on level one of the Crown Center Shops in Kansas City, MO.
• Individual Tickets: Tickets are $12 for youth under 18, students, and seniors age 60 and older; and $17 for adults.
• Subscriptions: In lieu of season subscriptions, The Coterie offers the Spotlight Club Pass, which works like a season ticket without committing to a set schedule. Spotlight Club members pay $100 for a flexible pass that includes 10 tickets – a savings of 40% off individual ticket prices that can be used for any show or combination of shows in the 2017/2018 Season. All tickets and Spotlight Club Passes are on sale now and may be purchased by calling The Coterie’s box office at (816) 474-6552, dropping by the box office on level one of the Crown Center Shops, or by visiting The Coterie website.
• Gift Certificates: The Coterie offers gift certificates for holiday shoppers looking for the perfect gift. Available in any denomination, gift certificates are redeemable for show tickets, Spotlight Passes, and acting classes. All may be purchased via The Coterie website.
Tags: The Coterie, Crown Center, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Children’s Theatre, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment