Good lessons with 'You're a Good Man Charlie Brown'
After hibernating for almost a year, The Jamestown Community Theatre is back with Jamestown's talented Julie Andrews directing the revised version of Charles M. Schulz and Clark Gesner's, "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown." Rebecca (Becky) Brazil, music director, has been a JCT devotee since she was 10 years old and a member of the cast of the theatre's first play, "Peter Pan." A dancer/teacher extraordinaire, Jamestown's Mary Beth Murphy is in charge of choreography.
Since March 7, 1967, when it opened off-Broadway, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" has become the most produced musical in history. The story is a classic one. It's a single day in the life of a little boy and his emotional transitions, ranging from hopelessness to optimism. All of us recognize the theme of the play. We probably could include a chapter from our own lives in it.
Words and actions can be complementary - they can sting or they can generate positive suggestions and create good feelings. Insecurity brought on most often by associations with peers can make or break our moments, our days, and our lives. It was with that in mind that the Jamestown Community Theatre and director Julie Andrews decided to perform "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" to remind us of compassion, civility, respect, and how the child within each of us still is learning right from wrong every day.
Charlie Brown is in all of us, because teasing, bullying, and lack of respect for diversity exists. Unfortunately, children encounter it most frequently when there is little or no adult supervision: on the playground, the sports fields, in the lunchroom, in hallways, and in bathrooms. Those who are the targets can be so consumed with worry and fear that they cannot do their best, and some children are afraid to come to school, since they encounter put-downs daily.
Charlie Brown laments, "I think lunchtime is about the worst time of day for me. Always having to sit here alone...." School lunchtime can be the worst place for a child. Adults must recognize that many children eat lunch alone, not by choice, but because they feel unwanted. Often it is the lunchroom staff who know the most about the social encounters in the school cafeteria.
We learn of the frenzied events of the Very Little League's Baseball Game, as Charlie Brown writes to his pen pal bemoaning how "disaster struck at the baseball game." Often those whose strengths lie outside the realm of team sports become the targets of name-calling and rejection by one's peers. I can speak for myself. Always chosen last by classmates for sports teams, I was about 10 years old when I realized for the first time that I did indeed have a strength, and it involved the performing arts. However, it wasn't until my peers, many years later, began to value music and theater, that I recognized the importance of my strength. How sad that so often we must derive self-confidence and self-esteem from how others treat us. What power a bully and his gang can hold over us; yet what power supportive and valuable remarks from others can positively affect us!
Self-assurance is portrayed in the character of Lucy Van Pelt as she bulldozes her way through her life and the lives of others. Her unreciprocated fondness for a sensitive musician, six-year-old Schroeder, teaches her that bona fide love might present an unmanageable challenge.
Of course, we are introduced to other characters who demonstrate the assortment of individuals we meet in our own lives. Lucy's little brother, Linus, reflects about many things, but he is obsessive when it comes to his attachment to his blanket; Charlie Brown's dog Snoopy spends a lot of time dreaming about his supper or thinking about bringing down the "infamous Red Baron," but mostly his life is an agreeable one.
Sally Brown, Charlie's sister, often searches for the easy way out, particularly at school, where her outlook on life reflects much of the frustration and uncertainty children experience. Other characters, namely Woodstock, the Little Red Headed Girl, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, a children's chorus, and backstage crew round out the company of Jamestown children involved in this musical.
Most productions of "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" are cast only with adults, perhaps to demonstrate the child that remains in all of us. Nevertheless, whether it is performed with a cast of children or adults, it doesn't seem to make much difference once we are into the story, since what the characters are saying to each other is with the sincerity and candor of children, and what is apparent is that all are really quite fond of each other.
I hope that many of you will see this production. It will make you smile. It may encourage memories to surface, some good, some giving us cause for remorse, and some still a bit raw from the hurt. "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" is a play that can teach all of us constructive lessons about respect, peer pressure, and relationships.
In a world with so many technological advances, with scientists who have created medical miracles, and astronauts who have traveled to the moon, we still can't seem to invent a way to all get along, but Charlie Brown and his buddies have discovered what is really important. I think we must remember their lessons and hold on to what they already know. After all is said and done, "Happiness is singing together when the day is through."
"You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" will be performed at the Jamestown Community Center on Oct. 27 and 28 at 7 p.m., Oct. 29 at 4 p.m., and Nov. 3 and 4 at 7 p.m. Tickets will be available Oct. 3 and can be purchased at: Pleasant Surprise in Newport, Midnight Sun in Wickford, and in Jamestown at Conanicut Marine Ship's Store, Baker's Pharmacy, and the Secret Garden. Ticket prices are: adults -$12 advance purchase and $15 at the door; children under 12 and seniors $ 7 advance purchase and $10 at the door. Seniors are invited to the dress rehearsal at no cost on Thursday, Oct. 26.