‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’
Best for age 5 and older
Has a hapless character ever been as lovable as Charlie Brown with his curlicue of hair, dots for eyes and sartorially singular yellow and black zigzags? Sixty years after cartoonist Charles Schulz developed the “Peanuts” comic strip, the gang’s popularity persists.
And for New York-based director Stephen Nachamie, the character has been a gift that keeps on giving. Not only was he a huge fan of the strip growing up, but Olney is the third theater to approach him about directing the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
It will be the director’s third time working with Olney, which mounted this season’s all-ages “The Sound of Music” as well as the more mature Agatha Christie adaptation “Witness for the Prosecution.” And revisiting the colorful characters is akin to reuniting with a group of long-lost friends.
“It’s kind of like when you hear a song again, and you know where you were when you first heard it,” Nachamie says. “It’s the same thing with the Charlie Brown characters; you know where you were in your life.”
For fans, the characters immediately conjure up certain emotions — the imaginative Snoopy slipping into the persona of the Red Baron; brassy bully Lucy mercilessly taunting Charlie; the philosophical, blankie-toting Linus; and Schroeder, the Beethoven-adoring piano prodigy. They all may be portrayed as small children (with the exception of one beagle), but they speak to all ages.
“I’ve never thought of Charlie Brown as a kids show. I’ve thought of it as a generational show in that parents have one memory and one understanding of it and kids will have another,” Nachamie says. “I’ve had adults that come see the production bring their kids at first, and then all of a sudden they’re bringing their friends.”
Nachamie brings his background in sketch comedy to the musical, offering episodes that track a year in lives of the characters. Kids might enjoy the familiarity of reliving the start of the school year, while adults may identify with scenes on the little league field.
Schulz “wanted to show that, no matter how much we age by the clock, all the factors of still trying to fit in and still trying to be an optimist, plus worry and depression and hope, that all of that never changes,” Nachamie says. “That’s kind of what makes it timeless.”
The cellphone-free Peanuts crew has remained relevant even while its audience has advanced so much technologically. That’s one thing that struck Nachamie when he looked at the musical for the first time since directing it eight years ago.
“I kind of sat down and thought, ‘Wow, the world’s changed.’ But then I realized these characters are still out there, and my friends said, ‘Oh, yeah, my kid has the iPhone app.’ ”
Feb. 22-March 18. Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd., Olney. 301-924-3400. www.olneytheatre.org. $26-$54.