‘You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown’ invites audiences to be a kid again
By Libby Nicolay
Good grief! Everyone’s favorite pessimist is back. In fact, the whole gang is here!
The Phantom Projects Theatre’s 25th Anniversary season brings the company’s first-ever
musical to the La Habra Depot stage with “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” playing
from May 13-29, 2022.
The celebrated musical comedy is part of a 70-year-long collection of stories based on Charles M. Schulz’s beloved comic strip Peanuts, set in a world of only children where the adults are unseen and unheard. Led by our favorite “lovable loser” Charlie Brown, Peanuts was also notably one of the first stories of its kind that portrayed fear and anxiety in a young child. The popular franchise has remained timeless, as we’ve seen time and again in a plethora of television specials and animated films over the years. Phantom Projects’ production, perfect for ages 5 and up, hopes to introduce Charlie Brown and the gang to a new generation of kids who might not
have grown up with them.
This multiple award-winning musical comedy adaptation written by Clark Gesner, Michael Mayer, and Andrew Lippa dates back to the late 1960s but was made more famous in 1999 during its Tony award-winning revival, starring Broadway’s Kristin Chenoweth and Roger Bart. It follows Charlie Brown through his ordinary moments of crushing on the Little Red-Haired Girl, lamenting to Lucy, and singing in Schroeder’s glee club. Despite his quirks, our leading boy is a simple guy with his own familiar struggles of nervousness and embarrassment. With each new day, Charlie stumbles between hopeful anticipation and anxious dread. He doesn’t always get the girl or win the ball game. “I think that’s why Charlie Brown has been in the fabric of our society for so long,” Phantom’s Producing Artistic Director Steve Cisneros adds. “The messages are so simple and yet they’re still life lessons that we all still struggle with. We’ve all woken up at some point saying we don’t want to get out of bed.”
Cisneros says this production is made for everyone. After all, the Peanuts gang has long captured America’s hearts, both young and old. Charlie Brown has always found a way to place himself right at the tender place where young innocence meets the heaviness of a life that’s just kind of…average. It’s his continued hope and take-it-on-the-chin attitude that has taught us how to live with our fears and failures and how to always get up and try again. Cisneros said it best, “It lets even the kids know that, hey, we all have those days. We just need to look for the thing that perks us up and look for the good that’s around us.”
With an adult cast portraying young, naive, whimsical children, a production like this draws out the silly and requires everyone’s full imagination. Cisneros says the cast and creative teams have had loads of fun throughout the rehearsal process with letting go and accessing their inner child, and he hopes that audiences will do the same.
To add to Phantom Projects’ anticipation, the company, which began as a La Mirada-based traveling theatre group that brought literary drama to teen and school audiences, has recently found its own venue at the previously empty La Habra Depot stage. “Charlie Brown” will come at the tail end of their series of family-oriented shows. They also have a number of newer plays in their repertoire and, as Cisneros would agree, they’re still just getting started. They are even offering sensory-friendly performances for families who may require dimmer lights, quieter music, extra space to stand up and wiggle, and a shorter performance.
Despite it being their 25th season, this marks the first time Phantom Projects has had a home of its own. Cisneros, who is also the co-founder of Phantom Projects, is simply grateful for the new opportunities for the company, especially after the last couple of years. “Every time I’ve walked into that theatre, I don’t take it for granted. I think it’s a great time for someone in our community to come find a new theatre company and support.”
This show brings humor and heart, all wrapped up in one oversized, brightly-colored, kite-flying bow. The time is right for the whole family to come along and be reminded of the beauty in innocence and all that we can learn from our most precious little ones. Perhaps all we’ve needed to accept our fears and disappointments is to look at this big scary world with Charlie Brown’s simple, childlike wonder.
Libby Nicolay is a writer, literary manager, and local theater enthusiast working in the entertainment industry throughout Orange County.
‘You're a Good Man Charlie Brown’
Location: 311 South Euclid St, La Habra, CA 90631
Run dates/curtain times: May 13-29. Fri., 7p.m.; Sat., 2 and 7 p.m.; Sun., 1 p.m.
Information: (714) 690-2900, thephantomprojectstheatre.com