Regional Reviews: Las Vegas
You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown
There is no better evidence of this than the audience response to the Super Summer Theatre's current production at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, ably directed by Joe Hynes with musical direction by Nancy West. Emboldened by the informal atmosphere of the outdoor setting, and perhaps their pent-up pandemic-induced hunger for social interaction, audience members of all ages felt free to call out words of encouragement to Charlie and the gang.
The timelessness of this musical (book, music and lyrics by Clark Gesner, with additional dialogue by Michael Mayer and additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa) comes from its ability to encapsulate the angst of growing up by evoking, through humor, the empathy that comes from self-recognition. The show's episodic structuremany short scenes that mimic the brevity of the comic strip itself, interspersed with longer scenes that build to substantial musical numbersis well suited to a youthful attention span. Under Hynes' brisk direction, the short scenes move quickly from one to the next, without undue breaks in momentum.
The strength of Hynes' ensemble lies in their first-rate vocals. All of them are excellent singers, and they give the all-important lyrics the respect they deserve. (Credit should also go to sound designer Kat Gonzalez and audio engineer Rosio Medina. Unlike some past productions at the Ranch, the orchestra does not overwhelm the vocals.) All of the cast members are solid actors as well. They occasionally fall short in their comic delivery, especially in the scenes where, just as in the comic strips, there isn't really a punchline per se, just a moment of irony marked by a shrug or a sigh. While a few of the performers could use more stage presence, Marissa McCoy is a standout as Sally, most notably in a scene where she challenges the teacher who gave her a C on her art project. She is also a fine dancer, as is Armando Harlow Ronconi as Snoopy. Keith Dotson excels as Schroeder; his stoic frustration at his comrades' lack of music appreciation is palpable.
Cassie Lentz's charming set design emulates the distinctive style of Schulz's drawings, right down to the curlicues in the clouds. Her oversized armchair has just the right proportions to shrink the adult actors down to child-size. Her school bus is especially striking in its all-too-brief roll across the stage.
The show's producer, Hynes-Sight Entertainment, has wisely invested in a live band. The musicians' placement in full view on stage elevates the audience experience. Schroeder would be proud.
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown runs through July 31, 2021, Thursday - Saturday at 8 p.m., at the Super Summer Theatre, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, 6375 NV-159, Blue Diamond NV. For tickets ($17.50, including fees) and further information, please visit supersummertheatre.org. Note that the park now charges attendees a $10 park entrance fee (cash only) per vehicle unless you have an annual state park permit.