Do not expect long lines at The Coterie to buy tickets for “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” written by Charles Shultz, based on the television special by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson, because the time-honored show is sold out through Dec. 25 and almost sold out for the entire run.
Several days before curtain up on the official opening, the box office confirmed that most seats for the entire run were sold out. When asked about availability, a spokesman for The Coterie said that the show was fully booked through Christmas and that several shows after Christmas were almost at capacity. The show closes Jan. 3. Those wanting tickets need to call and reserve immediately.
Producing artistic director, Jeff Church has again directed a show guaranteed to appeal to The Coterie patrons and an even wide audience. With this being the 50th anniversary of the TV version of A Charlie Brown Christmas, what could be more fitting for holiday fare than a live-action version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Church, using adult actors, as typical for Coterie productions, maintained the innocence, charm, hope, spirit, and magic of children anticipating Christmas. Dynamic, simple, charming, delightful–only begin to capture the ambiance the actors and creative team bring to this production.
For the title character, Steven Eubank again graced The Coterie stage as the iconic Charlie Brown who just can’t seem to catch a break. Eubank brings the insecurity, worry, anticipation, honesty, and questions that all plague Charlie Brown. Even sessions with his good friend, Lucy cannot calm his inner torment. In Eubank’s hands, Charlie Brown’s innocence and simple honesty remain paramount in his inner constitution.
As for the second most popular Peanuts character, Snoopy, Donovan Woods shows his range as an actor. Just off playing a former convict in a Unicorn Theatre production, Woods turns on the charm as America’s favorite Beagle/fighter pilot, Snoopy. Snoopy dances, gestures, woofs, and keeps Charlie Brown’s dreams alive. Snoopy’s holiday decorations turn Charlie Brown’s sad choice of a Christmas tree into a masterpiece decorated with love, devotion, camaraderie.
Linus and his blue security blanket remain true to the character as a shy, innocent sidekick to Charlie Brown. His soft-spoken nature resonates with a sweet, subtle performance by Tony Pulford. As Lucy, Lexi Morris portrays the outspoken, advice-giving with a kindness of heart. Her character is dominant, but caring. Lucy likes to be in control, and finds ways to infiltrate herself to the spotlight. Morris is great as Lucy.
The rest of the Peanuts gang includes Matthew Lindblom as the always messy Pigpen. Lindblom is funny and endearing as the dusty, always-messy child. Freida is played by Rachel Brennan Leyh. Vincent Wagner tickles the baby, baby grand as Schroeder. Ai Vi Bui is the always violet clad Violet. Sarah Kennedy is the shy, quiet little sis, Sally. Connor Relyea is Shermy.
Count on the entire cast to bring the Peanuts cartoon classic to life with authentic performances. The actors play the gang with the honesty of children. They make the audience believe they are children, not adults playing children–a difficult task. Each of the actors becomes the character he or she portrays without a lot of gimmicks. For “A Charlie Brown Christmas” the characters and plot are so well known, to be honest and authentic in performance, the actors display their range of acting skills. The Coterie’s version is very professionally sound.
For “A Charlie Brown Christmas” the Coterie orchestrated the piece with an on-stage trio of musicians who helped give the snow an added dimension. For the trio, Gary Adams on piano, Sam Wisman on percussion, and Jeff Harshbarger on bass provided the live sounds for singing and dancing. The actual play runs about 30 minutes like the TV cartoon, but to fit The Coterie’s hour format, with the help of the band, Snoopy gets to perform in his fighter-pilot character, and the Peanuts gang encourages the audience to join them in some added singing…and then a dance party.
The production team deserves lots of credit for bringing the happy charm to the production. Jeff Church directed and led the team. The production team included: Gary Adams, musical director; Marc Wayne, choreographer; Scott Hobart, set design/technical director; Art Kent, light design; Georgianna Londre Buchanan, costume design; David Kiehl, sound and projection design; Joyce Merrill, properties design/set dresser; William J. Christie, stage manager; Chloe Robbins-Anderson, production assistant/deck manager; Elise Campaign, costume design assistant; Amanda Killer, Amanda Killer, content editor; Ryan Hruza, Alice Pollack, Matthew Schmidli, house managers.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” runs through Jan. 3 at The Coterie Theatre on the lower level of Kansas City’s Crown Center. Tickets and more information can be found at The Coterie website.