Drama’s ‘Charlie Brown’ explored happiness, bullying and other preschool nostalgia
With January production, Shalhevet brought back musicals to the Wildfire Theater
Walking into the Shalhevet theater, I was impressed to see a beautiful cartoonish set painted in vibrant primary colors. As the classic Charlie Brown piano music played, Shalhevet’s six-person cast erupted into song – a phenomenal start to Shalhevet’s first musical in almost 10 years, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
Radiantly played by junior Maayan Mazar, the musical’s main protagonist is a relatable four-year-old named Charlie Brown, a newspaper comic strip hero created by Charles Schultz whose preschool friend group became so famous that plays, movies and TV specials based on it are still considered classics.
Musical theater demands much from a cast, and at Shalhevet’s production each cast member was a triple threat — dancing, singing and acting.
The character of Charlie Brown has no special talents and is not especially charismatic. Maayan played this character insightfully, showing his relatable de- termination to excel and fit in even as he is bullied by his classmates as he struggles to find himself.
The play explores both sides of bullying. Lucy, perhaps the meanest, was played with appropriately over-the-top confidence by junior Sivan El-Kiss, often laughing and at times maliciously pranking Charlie Brown. However, we see her struggle to become a better person and charm Schroeder, the group’s pianist, who wants nothing to do with her.
The character Sally, who was played convincingly by senior Zoe Ritz, makes fun of Charlie Brown constantly, but slowly also reveals that she truly loves her older brother. Nuances like these allow the audience to understand the motivations of each of the play’s characters and, in turn, the pain which exists on both sides of bullying.
Throughout the play, the characters each display their passions and aspirations, and their related faculties of happiness. Charlie Brown loves baseball and has a crush on an unseen redheaded girl. Schroeder, played by freshman Beatrice Green, loves playing the piano and singing about his idol, Ludwig van Beethoven.
As played warmly by freshman Ella Nadel, the character Linus loves philosophy and his blanket. And hilariously played by Nathan Soussana, even Snoopy – Charlie Brown’s pet beagle – expressed his appreciation for the little things in life through his song, “Not Bad At All.”
Musical theater demands much from a cast, and at Shalhevet’s production each cast member was a triple threat — dancing, singing and acting. The drama department used all of these elegantly to navigate the audience through the play,
sometimes having the performers sing and dance in ensemble together, confidently using the resources supplied by the outside professionals, including a choreographer and a music director-accompanist, to show the struggles and successes of Charlie Brown and his friends.
At the end, the play presented the audience with its grand thesis through an epic closing song. It went, “Happiness is anyone and everything at all that’s loved by you” – a lesson we can all apply to our own lives.
Many, if not all of us, are in constant pursuit of happiness. We often look to relationships, hobbies, commodities and even gurus to find it. But what better a way to explore our plight toward happiness than by revisiting our childhoods? You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown does just that, examining humanity’s search for happiness through the innocent lens of a child.