Charlie Brown and friends usher Christmas to Coterie

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Erin Stricker/The Coterie Theatre

The Christmas season begins early at The Coterie Theatre because Charlie Brown and his gang of friends brighten the holiday by performing a live version of the animated holiday special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Grab your kids, grandkids, brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces; add up the numbers; pick some workable dates; then rush to the phone or internet box office to secure your tickets to The Coterie’s newest crowd pleaser, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The holiday classic enters its third production, and plays every other year, rotating with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Two years ago, the last version of this children’s classic was nearly sold-out for the entire run just after it opened. Don’t miss the chance to see this one.

Erin Stricker/The Coterie Theatre

The Coterie version features a cast of local actors assuming the well-known Charles Schultz characters that began its annual airing in 1965. But, added to the original telecast, The Coterie features a live three-piece combo to perform the music. Also, some special musical arrangements by Coterie music director Gary Adams brings a new dimension to the show’s ending.

Besides “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Snoopy and the Red Baron face off in a extra added attraction just for the Christmas season. Beyond that a choral number by Adams allows the entire cast to perform a harmonious “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Erin Stricker/The Coterie Theatre

As the actors perform the time-honored classic, the live trio plays Vince Guaraldi’s original arrangements. Written by Peanuts creator Charles Schultz and based on the television special, this live action prodution excells.
The 2019 version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” brings a new cast together for this show. William J. Christie, director for The Coterie, inspired his cast to produce more cartoon-like characters and to play to the younger audience seated in the dress circle at the stage’s front. The new characterization excites the kids and winks to adults who see the show from a different perspective.

A delightful serendipity for all ages, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” unites the Peanuts gang with both loyal and new audiences in a heartfelt story, childhood innocence, childhood eyes, and adult messaging. The show plays in Crown Center, Nov. 8 – Dec. 29, in The Coterie Theatre.

Erin Stricker/The Coterie Theatre

“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 Coterie said. “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.”

The 2019 cast make this presentation glisten like sun on new fallen snow. Their expressions, gestures, movements and delivery of the dialogue make each line important. The dialogue is simple like children would speak, yet the cast does not try to imitate children. Each brings his own touch to the characters.

Erin Stricker/The Coterie Theatre

Charlie Brown played by Jordan Luty gives a grounded performance as he questions the commercialization of Christmas and wonders what has happened to the real meaning of the holiday. Phil Newman as Linus perfectly blends in as Charlie’s best buddy and right-hand man. Their height difference aligns well with the characterization. Vincent Wagner plays a mean piano-playing man. His facial expression and shoulder movements as Schroeder are so fun to watch .and they catch the younger audiences’ eyes. As Pigpen, Zach Faust just clouds the air with dust. His part is small but funny and makes the kids squeal with delight when the dust flies. The boss lady, a. k. a. Lucy, snaps to life as played by Allison Jones in her first Coterie production. Her smile and facial expressions make Lucy loveable and laughable. But, the kids favorite, without a doubt, Snoopy, played by Darrington Clark, draws the most applause. Clark plays Snoopy with broad pantomime moves and facials and then engages the audience and the

Erin Stricker/The Coterie Theatre

Peanuts gang in his special encore number. The others in the cast absolutely shine in their characterizations, but the script just does not give them much dialogue or situations to stand out. Overall, this is rock-solid, talented, cast sparkles in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.

“The story follows Charlie Brown as he direct the school Christmas pageant. In their letters to Santa, everyone seems to be acting materialistic – so Charlie Brown tries to restore holiday spirit with a ragged little fir tree. Experience the power of this wonderful story live onstage as Charlie Brown turns to his best friend Linus to learn the season’s real meaning,” The Coterie said.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” runs approximately 55 minutes with no intermission and will be appreciated by families with all ages. The Coterie seats about 250 persons with a large floor gallery space especially enticing for younger members to be up close to the action. Bright colors and music help younger audiences focus on the live action play.

Bob Evans | KC Applauds

The cast of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” features Jordan Luty (as Charlie Brown), Darrington Clark (as Snoopy), Allison Jones (as Lucy), Phil Newman (as Linus), Zach Faust (as Pigpen), Vincent Wagner (as Schroeder), Catera Combs (as Violet), Deanna Mazdra (as Sally), David LeVota (as Shermy), Margo G. Roberts and Ava Wolesky (sharing the role of Frieda). The jazz combo is composed of Gary Adams (pianist), Sam Wisman (bassist), and Jeff Harshbarger (percussionist).

The artistic and production company includes William J. Christie (director; based on the original staging for The Coterie by Jeff Church), Gary Adams (musical director), Marc Wayne (choreographer), Danielle Renee (resident production stage manager), Scott Hobart (set designer/resident technical director), Jarrett Bertoncin (resident

Erin Stricker/The Coterie Theatre

lighting designer), Georgianna Londré Buchanan (resident costume designer), David Kiehl (resident sound & projection designer), Joyce Merrill (properties), Chloe Robbins (production assistant), and Jan Kohl (stage manager cover).

The Coterie, now in its 41st Season, performs “A Charlie Brown Christmas” Nov. 5 – Dec. 29, in The Coterie Theatre, located on level one of the Crown Center Shops in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Coterie Theatre

Individual Tickets: Tickets are $13-$15 for youth under 18, students, and seniors age 60 and older; and $17-$19 for adults. Prices vary by performance date. Tickets 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 Theatre website. Group pricing available. www.thecoterie.org.

Tags: “A Charlie Brown Christmas” review, The Coterie Theatre, Crown Center, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment

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