Everyone’s Jolly Good Fellow

The Peanuts Movie, created by Charles Schulz’s son Craig Schulz and grandson Bryan Schulz, was released last week to huge popular and critical acclaim. It’s the first feature-length Peanuts film to come along in 35 years.

Less significantly, but still well worth mentioning, a recent viral Tumblr site shows classic Peanuts cartoon panels paired with the depressive lyrics of ’80s/’90s mope band The Smiths. Charlie Brown’s existential despair, Lucy’s perennial grudges: it’s a perfect mashup of modern irony, and it proves how enduring Charles Schulz’s characters are, no matter the generation or the genre.

But the classic musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown seems impervious to trends. It has stayed in the here-and-now for almost 50 years, enduring not only because of the wit, but also for the intense joy it brings round in the end. Using a small cast and purposefully basic, kindergarten-esque staging, the script flips all the cartoon’s hallmark angst (will Lucy get Schroeder to notice her? will Charlie’s love for “the little redheaded girl” ever be returned? will Snoopy realize his misunderstood aviation ambitions?) into messages of hope tailor-made for the holidays.

“None of the cast is actually six years old. And they don’t really look like the ‘Peanuts’ cartoon characters. But this doesn’t seem to make that much difference once we are into the play, because what they are saying to each other is with the openness of that early childhood time, and the obvious fact is that they are all really quite fond of each other,” the musical’s creator, Clark Gesner, once noted.

The show is continually resurrected in major venues, including in 2008 for a one-night-only benefit performance for the Make-a-Wish foundation. Moreover, it remains a favorite with community theaters, including our own accomplished Tryon Little Theater (516 S. Trade St.), which will stage You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown November 12-22, with shows Thursdays through Sundays. Emily Riddle and Joel Perkin star as Lucy Van Pelt and Charlie Brown. Big bonus: vintage Peanuts memorabilia, collected from theater members and audiences, will be shown in a display case in the lobby.

Tickets are $11-$22. Call 828-859-2466 or see www.tltinfo.org for details.

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