Happiness is ‘Charlie Brown’

"You’re a Good Man,
Charlie Brown" at the Eva Marie Saint Theatre, BGSU. (Photos: Aaron
Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)

No one in Charlie Brown’s world sees the romantic buried within his blah exterior.
He’s not good at much, and not eye-catching.
That’s may be true for his fellow denizens of the "Peanuts" gallery of characters, but it’s not
true for audiences who watch "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown."
They see the great longing inside Charlie Brown.
The Bowling Green State University Department of Theatre and Film bring the musical based on Charles
Schulz’ comic strip in full Sunday funnies color to the Eva Marie Saint Stage starting tonight at 8 p.m.
and running through Sunday at 2 p.m.
That conflict between how the characters see themselves and how the world sees them has been central to
the strip going back to its early days when an editor changed the name of his strip from "Li’l
Folks" to "Peanuts" without Schulz’ approval.
Yet those insecurities fueled the humor and the pathos of the strip. Charlie Brown (Jimmy Wilson) tells
the audience, and then much to his regret Lucy (Eli Brickey), that he’s always wanted to be called
"Flash." But he’s not a flashy guy, nor a good baseball player, he’s just a kid, with a big
heart, and that the show tells us is quite enough even if the title character doesn’t quite believe it.

As this Everykid, Wilson is aglow with hope one instant before shrinking from the challenge of greeting
the always off-stage red-headed girl. Even if his head lacks that distinctive roundness, Wilson embodies
his character’s well-rounded personality.
The whole cast members (including understudy Neil Powell who stepped in as Snoopy during the dress
rehearsal for Casey Toney) make these parts their own while staying true to their well-defined, and so,
so well known personalities.
These are characters most of us have seen in the newspaper our whole lives. These are characters who
return to share the holidays with us. Their adventures have been anthologized. Their faces have graced
notepads and coffee mugs. It’s a tribute to the strength of Schulz’ work that the brand never consumed
his vision. And that vision was always a little bleak. These were kids with anxieties, not just cute
dilemmas.
It’s a tribute to the BGSU cast that they portray them as fully formed characters, without mugging or
condescension.
Brickey’s Lucy is particularly strong. Her forceful, bossy personality helps her to control her world in
a way Charlie Brown only dreams of. She has a mean-streak, yes, but it always seems to be exercised in
teaching others lessons she feels they need to learn. Brickey registers each emotional shift as she
connives, and even softens sometimes.

Of course, the one she can’t control is Schroeder (Scott Sanville). She dreams of being married to him,
so he can sit at parties and entertained guests with something nice, like "April Showers." He
ignores her, continuing to play Beethoven on his toy piano. She erupts into song, bellowing the highest
notes in the melody. He ignores her.
Schroeder does come to life when advocating for classical music, pushing to have Beethoven’s birthday
recognized as a holiday, but still not wanting it to be commercialized.
Sally (Jackie Jerlecki) plays the angles. Jerlecki shows us someone who would rather go to great lengths
arguing her coat hanger sculpture deserves more than a C-minus than actually spend time doing the work.
She’s drama queen who after she drops her ice cream cone exclaims: "Don’t tell me my life isn’t a
Shakespearean tragedy."
Linus (Jarrod Alexander) is the philosopher, the deep-thinker with a security blanket. He can
convincingly spin a deep literary analysis of "Peter Rabbit," but can’t tie his shoes. With
his slight lisp, which he maintains while singing, Alexander shows us both his vulnerabilities as well
as his great intelligence. As much as he can talk about the meaning of things, he can’t free himself
from the security blanket he relies on to help him cope with the world.
Given the underlying theme of aspiration crashing up against reality, that closing number
"Happiness" seems arbitrary.
Still the BGSU troupe didn’t write the show (Clark Gesner did) and what would it be without its big
number. So they give the sentimental anthem their all, guaranteeing the audience will exit humming.