BOSTON – The life lessons that Charles M. Schulz imparted in his classic comic strip “Peanuts” have stood the test of time.
So have his characters: Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the rest, who have long since become cultural icons, not only from the comics, but the enduring TV specials and commercials as well as ventures such as the Broadway musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
The Boston Children’s Theatre scored a success last year with a live stage adaptation of the 1965 animated TV special ”A Charlie Brown Christmas,” a venture that was so successful the troupe has been staging it with two different casts at three different theaters in the Greater Boston area this holiday season.
A recent performance in the Wimberly Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion of the Boston Center of the Arts featured a charming, talented cast bringing the holiday story to life.
At about 50 minutes long, the show won’t tax the endurance of the young ones.
The timeless melodies by the Vince Guaraldi Trio – the show’s soundtrack is currently No. 40 on the Billboard Top 200 albums – provide the sound track, including the iconic opening number, “Christmas Time is Here,”with characters “skating” on the Wimberly stage, the choreography credited to Ally Antonelli.
As the show opens, Charlie Brown (Christian Tasiopoulos) is depressed and unsure about the meaning of Christmas, becoming more morose by the minute. What can bring him out of his talespin and how will be find the true meaning of Christmas?
The role of Lucy, Charlie Brown’s main tormenter, demands an outsized personality, and Hattie Mae Rich has it in spades. She is loud and proud, happy to give advice when it is neither asked for or wanted, and ready to pin the blame on Charlie Brown whenever things go wrong, as they do with an ill-fated Christmas pageant.
They may be young, but Henry Hutchinson as Snoopy and Jack Baumrind as Woodstock are already impossibly cute, certified Grade A scene-stealers and bring their characters to vivid, hilarious life.
Michael Karezin’s Linus has wisdom far beyond his years
The rest of the gang is also here, including the piano-playing Schroeder (Ryan Curley); curly-haired Frieda (Genevieve Young); the take-charge-type Marcie (Emme Morales); Peppermint Patty (Sophia Wulsin); Pigpen (Jeff Haryslak); Sally (Charlotte Varga), Charlie’s irritating sister; Shermy (Charlie Barror) and Violet (Julia Yameen).
This production benefits greatly from the talented adults providing guidance and support ,including director Burgess Clark, the BCT’s executive artistic director, the uber-talented Janie E, Howland, whose set design faithfully replicates the backgrounds of the TV special while also delivering a deliciously decorated doghouse and a Christmas tree that can best be described as a true Charlie Brown tree..
After the final curtain, stay put as the cast entertains you with a selection of Christmas songs.
If you’re still enjoying “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on TV each year, you’ll enjoy it being played out all over again live on stage.
It’s fine for all ages, and an excellent opportunity to introduce the younger members of your family to the joys of live theater.
The Boston Children’s Theatre production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” By Charles M. Schulz, based on the television special by Bill Menendez and Lee Mendelson. Stage Adaptation by Eric Schaeffer. Directed by Burgess Clark. At the Regent Theatre in Arlington through Dec. 24 and the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts through Dec. 23. For tickets or show times, please visit www.bostonchildrenstheatre.org.