The Taproot Theatre is again offering up a cute little stocking stuffer with its take on A Charlie Brown Christmas. The play recreates the warmth and good cheer Charles Schultz and director Bill Melendez first served up with their award winning television special back in 1965.
It takes a bit of time to adjust to the strange rhythms of the script’s dialogue that often rely on the four-panel format of the original Peanuts comic strips. The beats are very short and go right to the punch lines. The cast’s delivery of the show’s lines also seem odd at first, for all are delivered in an emphatic, broad manner.
Watching the show again this year however, I realized how close these talented actors are to really bringing these cartoon characters alive. They somehow blend the Peanuts Gangs’ unique tone with whatever it is required for real characters in a staged drama to interact. I’ll be darned if it doesn’t all work wonderfully! The show flies by, clocking in at well under an hour. It might be just the right timing for the youngest audience members.
In this particular tale, Charlie must contend with a world of worries: he feels depressed during this festive season, he worries about the over-commercialization of Christmas, he’s been charged with directing the Christmas show and worst of all, he seems to have really blundered by bringing in the saddest little Christmas tree possible for the show’s set. Lucy’s psychiatry stand offers little hope and Snoopy is far too busy constructing his award winning holiday decorations for his doghouse. Yet Charlie Brown is determined to hurdle past “the modern spirit” and discover “what Christmas is all about.”
The cast is uniformly strong. Carly Squires Hutchison (Sally), Benjamin Wippel (Charlie Brown), and Tyler Todd Kimmel (Schroeder) all reprise their roles from Taproots’ 2015 production of the play. Kimmel on piano and Anthony Lee Phillips (Pig Pen) on bass provide the live music, deftly handling the iconic Vince Guaraldi jazz tunes. New additions this year are Bretteny Beverly (Frieda, she with the naturally curly hair), Jessi Little (Lucy) and a particularly animated and limber Andrew Scott Bullard as Snoopy. Scenic designer Rick Lorig once again created a delightful comic strip background that allowed the cast to really seem as if they came right off the funny papers.
This year, A Charlie Brown Christmas is co-directed by Karen Lund and Sam Vance. The show appears at the Taproot Theatre’s Jewell Mainstage through December 28. The Taproot Theater lies in the heart of Greenwood at 212 N 85th Street. For ticket information call 206-781-9707 or go to www.taprootthreatre.org.