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Over-50 Casting Keeps 'Charlie Brown' Young

Several of the county's best actors give a fresh face to the universal characters of 'Peanuts' fame.


The secret of "Peanuts" success is its universality: Almost everybody can identify with hapless Charlie Brown, bossy Lucy, tomboy Peppermint Patty, sensitive Linus, musical Schroeder or clever Snoopy. Or maybe, to some degree, all of them.

Clark Gesner's 1966 musical "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" was an immediate hit when first produced off-Broadway and has been a staple of community and school theater groups ever since.

While it's nothing new to see the "Peanuts" characters portrayed by adults (as the show was written) or children, a cast in which no player is younger than 50--and most are a decade or two older than that--is a novelty.

In the current production by the new Comedy Tonight Productions, it works just fine. Several of the county's best actors are gathered under Rebecca Hanes' direction: Bob Decker, Eleanor Brand, Marlene Reinhart, Terry Fishman, "Doc" Reynolds and Don Pearlman play the gang of 6-year-olds and a beagle named Snoopy, who has more imagination and style than any of the children.

Now at the Arts Council Center in Thousand Oaks, the show will move to Ojai and Simi Valley in weeks to come.

Age aside, physical resemblance doesn't count for much here. Charlie Brown has a full head of hair, and Lucy's is red. (One wonders what "the little red-headed girl" who is the object of Charlie Brown's unrequited affection would look like).

But the cast performs with such joy that such details become as insignificant as the songs, which--though pleasant--are mostly so slight that you may forget them before they're over.

Exceptions are "The Book Report" with its ambitious vocal arrangement, and "Suppertime," performed as a vaudeville turn by Pearlman as Snoopy. The wit here is in the script, assembled by Gesner from, evidently, actual comic strips by "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz.

* "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" through June 30 on the patio (bring a wrap) of the Arts Council Center, 482 Greenmeadow Drive, Thousand Oaks. Shows are 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday, with a 4 p.m. matinee on June 23 only. Ticket $8-$10. Reservations required. Call: 381-2747.


'Bums Benched': The Santa Paula Theater Center's scheduled production of the baseball-oriented comedy "Bleacher Bums" has been moved from this month to September. Also, Plaza Players artistic director Michael Maynez said that "Twilight of the Golds," announced to open last weekend, is postponed until "later in the year."

'Search to Commence': With its stage now vacant in the absence of "Bleacher Bums," the Santa Paula Theater Center will soon host "The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe," starring Donna Kimpball in the role written for Lily Tomlin by Jane Wagner. Call 525-4645 for ticket information.


Casting Call: Auditions for Comedy Tonight's touring production of "The Mikado" will be held Saturday and Sunday, at the Arts Council Center, 482 Greenmeadow Drive, in Thousand Oaks. Be prepared to sing a song in the Gilbert and Sullivan style, and bring sheet music in the appropriate key. An accompanist will be provided. Call 389-3193.

Director Bailey Spencer will hold auditions Sunday through Tuesday for the Conejo Players' production of "Steel Magnolias" at the Players' Theater, 351 S. Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks. Call Spencer at (818) 398-8333.

Director Don Pearlman will cast the Conejo Players' Afternoon Theater (weekend matinees only) production of "The Cemetery Club" on June 23 at the Players' Theater. Call 492-2526.

Moorpark Melodrama will hold auditions for its production of "Greased," a musical with strong similarity (we presume) to the classic "Grease" on June 24 at the Melodrama's theater, 45 E. High St. in Moorpark. Be prepared to sing, dance and do a cold reading from the script for director Steve Robertson. Bring your own sheet music. An accompanist will be provided. Call 529-1212.

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