That Charlie Brown might just be onto something

Have you been feeling a little Charlie Brown-ish lately? Wondering about the world around you, and if you’re the only one who’s seeing it the way it really is? Well, the universe sends messages in funny ways, and sometimes those messages are broadcast during live theater with your children.

If you go

Runs through Jan. 8, 2017

Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut, Chicago

www.emeraldcitytheatre.org

 

Emerald City Theatre’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was the unlikely messenger this go ‘round, and this brand new staging is worth its weight in happy Peanuts dancing. Fans of the 1965 television special by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson know the tale by heart: Charlie Brown, wanting to discover the true meaning of Christmas while his friends (and dog!) are bogged down in commercialism, searches for the holiday spirit in everything from the kids’ pageant to a Christmas tree lot. He more than finds it in this snappily jubilant play and, spoiler alert, it’s not in Sally’s suggestion of tens and twenties, either.

From the get-go, director Ann Filmer’s cast has us immersed in the comforting Peanuts world of “ice-skating” (my 7-year-old was incredibly impressed), snowflake-eating and the musical interludes which are ingrained in our collective consciousness. Charlie Brown, played by Jason Goff, is the perfect level of, well, Charlie Brownitude with wry asides and sympathetic “good griefs.” It’s clear that this company is enjoying themselves, and the entire cast is fun to watch. (A new addition this year is the replacement of puppet Snoopy with actor Jesse Dornan; he steals nearly every scene he’s in.)

Want to remember just why theater is so great for–and with-children? Keep a close eye on the little ones in the audience during the transformation of the anemic tree to the fully decorated one; even though the replacement is sleight-of-hand on the part of the actors, the reaction of the kids will restore a good bit of magic to your life. (A nice, post-show singalong works wonders for the psyche, too.)

Emerald City’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a timely nudge to the soul. This earnest production reminds us that people are good, that communities always come together (even if it’s to fix up a not-so bad little tree), and that the holiday spirit is there for the taking and distributing.

Not too shabby for a story written fifty years ago.

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