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‘Charlie Brown’ worth more than peanuts

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YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN. Provo Theatre Company, 105 E. 100 North; continues through Aug. 11, 8 p.m., Wednesdays-Saturdays. All seats reserved; tickets range from $7.50-$12.50. Box office: 379-0600. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes (one intermission).

PROVO — Stepping out of the funny papers and onto the stage, the whole "Peanuts" gang is wonderfully brought to life by the Provo Theatre Company with the musical favorite "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."

With no prevailing storyline, this musical is not like other plays in a traditional, narrative sense. Rather, it's a series of "Peanuts" vignettes that make the audience feel like they are perusing a week's worth of "Peanuts" comics rather than watching one of those TV specials ("A Charlie Brown Christmas," etc.).

The musical, which had a recent revival on Broadway, was created in 1967 with the blessing of Charles Schulz (and thank goodness they decided to go with "Peanuts," because "You're a Good Man, Prince Valiant" would never have worked).

The musical whisks you back to a time when the world seemed to revolve around trivial matters, such as a baseball game or a 100-word book report; back when friendships were based more on proximity to your house than the meshing of personalities.

Director Jeff Martin does a terrific job of catching the attention of the audience and keeping the action flowing through each little story and song. Whether it's Snoopy dancing with a boa, heads popping out of shutters (a la "Laugh-In" or "Hee Haw") or Patty tumbling off the stage, Martin keeps things fresh and fun throughout.

Martin also did a great job of casting. "Charlie Brown" is able to immediately strike a chord with the audience because we have already spent so much time with these characters, but it's also quite a challenge to step in and play two-dimensional characters that are so well-known. But PTC's six-person ensemble does so seamlessly.

As the title already makes clear, Charlie Brown is the glue of the "Peanuts" universe, and Matt Hill hits all the right notes playing the title character. Hill's wide-eyed hopeful pathos and bright voice capture the nuances of the lovable loser.

The others also get equal opportunities to showcase their formidable talents:

— Matt Herrick's Schroeder is a perfect frigid foil for Lucy.

— Marilee Spencer's Lucy hilariously vamps up the flirting in the song "Schroeder," then smoothly changes gears to become the ego queen in the song "Queen Lucy," and all of a sudden, audience members know they are seeing the conniving little girl who delights in repeatedly snatching the football away from Charlie Brown.

— Casey Reeves also does some wonderful gear-changing of his own as Linus, who, one minute, gleefully sings the praises of his security blanket, then lectures intellectually on the deeper meanings of "Peter Rabbit."

— Cyndi Ball is a kick as the slightly ditsy, full-of-smiles Patty. (It was a little confusing, though, because Peppermint Patty is supposed to be a tomboy, with mousy dark hair and have a crush on Charlie "Chuck" Brown. This Patty seemed a lot more like Charlie Brown's blond sister, Sally, without the "Sweet Baboo" crush on Linus.)

— And Lesley Larsen consistently cracks up the audience with a whole new take on Snoopy that is equal parts Joe Cool and crazed pooch.

On the technical side, the accompaniment was right on throughout and the set looked like it jumped right off the Sunday "Peanuts" comic strip.

E-mail: pthunell@desnews.com