Originally published on Seacoast Online
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a production of the Firehouse Center for the Arts of Newburyport, Mass., in partnership with Upside Arts, being rolled out for the younger viewer, and the Peanuts’ fan.
The play is based on, and primarily follows the eponymous 1965 animated television special and includes its wonderful score, launching into the production to the sounds of “Christmas Time Is Here.”
Charlie Brown, as it goes, is not finding the Christmas spirit. Lucy suggests he wrap himself in the season and take charge of the school play. Like all things Charlie, it doesn’t go smoothly, nor does his choice of tree. All the little guy wants is to find the real meaning of Christmas; something beyond its commercialism.
The story is fairly thin, and this play’s version is slightly edited down. Still its familiar characters brought to life by many outstanding performances will leave fans and kids satisfied.
The magic of this show lies in its actor and musician.
Chris Bradley as Charlie Brown, Cullen Delangie as Linus, Seraphina Caliguire as Lucy and Michelle Faria as Snoopy led the pack and embody their characters.
Equally smooth are Jess Miller as Sally, Christian Arnold as Pigpen, and the remainder of the cast, Max Tullgren, Emily Rose Reardon, Eimile Bowden, Kayla Cates and Bridget Keaveney.
Music direction by Miles Burns is spot on, and the score is performed perfectly by Jonny Peiffer, Tommy O’Malley and Ken Godel.
The visuals are basic; the dressing and set by Alyssa Olsen much like Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree is sparse, and largely overwhelmed by black curtains on both sides. These drapes, equal widths to the backdrop, tend to swallow the color and cartoon props. The lighting by Bretton Reis does little to focus the eye to the center.
Direction by Caligiure is direct, and keeps the pace. Costuming also by Caligiure reaches for the traditional.
Here’s the thing about “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” across the board the performances both actors and musicians are wonderful and the play is 40 minutes total. It finishes with a holiday sing-along, and an invitation to all to have photos taken with characters at the end, which makes this a great holiday outing for families with smaller children (especially with that 40-minute cap) and for the Charlie Brown fan.
Go & Do
What: “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
When:Through Dec. 23, Friday 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 2 and 5 p.m.
Where: Star Theatre, 120 Rogers Road, Kittery, Maine.