‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ is better than you remembered

It’s not really the holidays until someone hums the opening strains of “Christmastime is here” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio- and if they’re pensively strolling through a Christmas tree lot, even better.

If you go

Runs through Jan. 3, 2016

Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place


Fans of the iconic, gentle “Peanuts” television classic (created by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson from Charles M. Schulz’s cutie-pie crew) will rediscover the true meaning of Christmas in Emerald City Theatre’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at the Broadway Playhouse. And how do you turn a 25-minute holiday special into a fully staged production, you might ask? Artistic Director Ernie Nolan has the answer: With more sweet character asides, musical interludes and dance breaks than you can shake a shiny metallic tree at.

The ensemble is marvelously earnest, knowing exactly what people are coming to see. (And understanding full well that the majority of the audience includes an older generation who knows every chord and “aaugh” by heart.) David Wesley Mitchell is the real Charlie Brown deal, likable– and even loveable–as the good ol’ kid in the yellow shirt. His friends, from blankie-loving Linus (Denzel Love) to know-it-all Lucy (Jamie Finkenthal)–and everyone in between–are pitch perfect. Superbly cool additions to the cast were Peppermint Patty (Elizabeth Sandej-Schmidt), Pig Pen (Jeff Kurysz) and Schroeder (Alex Benjamin) as onstage musicians, sometimes throwing in dialogue, but always providing the score we know and love. Snoopy, for his part, is portrayed by no fewer than two puppeteers; although a tiny guy onstage, it was surprisingly effective.

Running just under an hour, the show combines classic plot lines with elements Charles M. Schulz could never have dreamed of, such as projected Snoopy cartoons above the action. And those aforementioned dance breaks? My 4-year-old gently reminded me that sometimes it was okay to just sit and watch the show, too.

Good grief.

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