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Theater Reviews : 'Snoopy' Cast Needs to Be Part of the Gang : The beagle and his sidekick are just fine in this Yorba Linda Civic Light Opera production, but other key figures seem like only supporting players.

March 03, 1994|T. H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

YORBA LINDA — The success of any live version of a comic strip is the ability of the director and cast to submerge their own personas and transmogrify their existence into the world of the strip's readers' imaginations. It's particularly difficult in the case of Charles Schulz's "Peanuts," which readers have had decades to become a part of.

At the Yorba Linda Civic Light Opera, co-director/choreographers Tim Kashani and Joshua Eklund come close to making their production of "Snoopy--the Musical" live in Schulz's world but miss just barely enough to take the edge off an energetic and inventive production of this second musical based on the goings-on of the "Peanuts" kids and their friends, the intrepid beagle Snoopy and his sidekick Woodstock.

Part of the reason might be that Kashani plays Snoopy and Eklund plays Woodstock. They're both just fine in the roles. Eklund even looks amazingly like Woodstock and has the little feathered fellow's benign complacency and willingness to do anything to please Snoopy. And Kashani's Snoopy is a lithe ball of fire, the best dancer in the cast, has the best musical comedy voice, and eagerly goes beagle-istic at the drop of a top hat.

*

But they are the directors. Maybe another director could have made them look even better. That third eye often makes the difference. A different hand might also have pulled the whole cast into an ensemble, so important in this kind of show. As it is, Charlie Brown (Steve Glaudini), Linus (Chris Sands), Sally (Heather Dickenson), Lucy (Sarah Ramsey-Duke) and Peppermint Patty (Aimee Boice) look like a supporting cast, which should never be the case.

Glaudini's supercilious grins, Sands' stunned double-takes, Dickenson's suburban complacent self-righteousness, Ramsey-Duke's Scarlett O'Hara crabiness, and Boice's baby-earth-mother honesty work beautifully, and they all sing quite well, but their ensemble playing is apart from that of Kashani and Eklund.

*

The only other problem with the production is Edward Huber's lighting design, which boggles the imagination, and sometimes the vision, often pairing a glaring backdrop with dimly lit performers. Huber seems unsure of which deserves prominence.

Right on the target is Mitchel Hanlon's musical direction, sharp as the co-directors' choreography, full of pizazz and savvy.

* "Snoopy--the Musical," Forum Theatre, 4175 Fairmont Blvd., Yorba Linda. Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m., Sunday matinee, 2 p.m. Ends Sunday. $6-$10. (714) 779-8591. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes. Tim Kashani Snoopy

Steve Glaudini: Charlie Brown

Chris Sands: Linus

Joshua Eklund: Woodstock

Aimee Boice: Peppermint Patty

Sarah Ramsey: Duke Lucy

Heather Dickenson: Sally Brown

A Yorba Linda Civic Light Opera production of a musical based on Charles M. Schulz's "Peanuts," book by Charles Schulz, music by Larry Grossman, lyrics by Hal Hackaday. Directed/choreographed by Tim Kashani and Joshua Eklund. Musical director: Mitchel Hanlon. Technical director/lighting design: Edward Huber. Sound design: Brian Newell. Additional choreography: LeAnn McGregor. Additional concepts: Tim Klega. Stage manager: Wade Bradford.

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