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CCRI Players close out the semester with production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

CCRI Players close out the semester with production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Good grief! The gang from the Community College of Rhode Island Players comes together this weekend for one last performance of the spring semester with their adaptation of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. 

Written in 1967 by Clark Gesner, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown is a musical based on the characters created by cartoonist Charles M. Schulz in his comic strip Peanuts – a perfect opportunity, said CCRI Theatre Program Director and self-professed Peanuts “super-fan” Ted Clement, to end the year on a light-hearted note following a stretch of heavy, thought-provoking performances dating back to 2021.

With Clement’s blessing, a season that began with The Laramie Project, a revealing look at the reaction to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, ends with the zany adventures of Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, and the entire Peanuts gang as they treat the audience to a day in the life of the famous comic strip hero himself, Charlie Brown.

The show premiers tomorrow at 7:30 pm at CCRI’s Liston Campus Auditorium in Providence with additional showtimes Friday at 7:30, Saturday at 2 and 7:30, and Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets are available online. Saturday’s matinee also features sign-language interpreters.

“I chose this play because I wanted to do something that was fun,” said Clement, who is also directing this weekend’s performances. “A lot of the shows we’ve done this year and over the past few years since the pandemic have featured heavy subject matter. They’ve been reflective of the world we’re in and the hardships people are experiencing. 

“What’s wonderful about this show and the whole Charlie Brown narrative is Charles Schulz is writing about his own life. While it’s funny and lighthearted and has the spirit of a child, it also has the depth of a child. It deals with pain, fear, Charlie feeling singled-out or less than, so while it’s funny and fun and everyone knows the characters, it rings true because it’s sourced from a person’s lived experiences.”

This weekend’s performance by the Players is a reprise of the 1999 version of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which features additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. The cast – which includes Max Hayden as Charlie Brown and Elissa Parente as Lucy – really leaned into the production, according to Clement, and showed remarkable self-awareness in regard to how the treatment of the main character and the actions of the supporting characters could be perceived by a more modern-day audience. 

Classic Peanuts gags, such as Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie or referring to him as a “blockhead,” are considered tropes, Clement said, but undoubtedly raise issues about bullying, especially since the characters are considered to be in the 7- to 8-year-old range. 

“That’s more of a credit to my cast in that any time they have to be particularly mean to Charlie Brown, they want to apologize afterward,” Clement said. “But kids are kids and they can be harsh and rough with each other. They certainly were when I was a kid. I would say this generation of young adults is certainly more self-aware and more aware of the impact they having on the people around them when they say things.”

Clement added that “the work we’re doing on this show and developing characters has been built around who they were when they were 7 and 8 years old.” Each cast and crew member created a slide for a special Powerpoint presentation during rehearsal that featured old photos of themselves when they were 7 or 8 years old and pictures of things they liked – toys, video games, etc. 

“That was very effective in helping them rediscover who they were at that age,” Clement said. 

Clement, whose Charlie Brown fandom dates back to his own childhood, said he has seen himself in many of the characters through the years, from Linus to Charlie Brown to Snoopy (particularly as his alter-ego Joe Cool). The original Peanuts comic strip, which began in 1950 and ended when Schulz died in 2000, is a staple in American pop culture and widely considered the longest-running comic strip in history, making You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and its various adaptations relatable to all audiences.

“This show is a two-hour musical of the Peanuts comic strip and all that entails. It’s fun, funny, and a little bit sad – but not too sad. It’s visually iconic thanks to the great work done by our costume design team. Everyone has gone all in on this and it’s going to be exciting to see the finished product.”

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