Washougal, WA — Journey Theater Arts Group premiered “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” to admiring fans Friday night at the Washburn Performing Arts Center.
The play, based on the iconic comic strip, “Peanuts,” by Charles Shultz was adapted to the stage by Clark Gesner, and was directed by Journey’s Kristi Foster. The theater group, which provides acting opportunities for children ages 8-18, expanded the performance to include dozens of actors.
The kids did an excellent job.
Journey’s performance starred a core group of talented youth, featuring Camas resident, Clayton Lukens, as the play’s titular character, “Charlie Brown.” Dressed in the character’s iconic yellow and black shirt and shorts, Lukens brought “Charlie Brown” to life on stage. This reporter wasn’t sure how that would play out, but these kids far exceeded my expectations.
Emily Warner played “Lucy” and carried her part very well, even down to the way she flirted with “Schroeder” played aptly by 17-year-old, Joshua Bode. Battle Ground resident, Thomas DeBartolo, played Charlie Brown’s confidant and buddy, “Linus” convincingly, carrying and dancing with his blanket in some well-timed and hilarious scenes. There were moments when DeBartolo’s “Linus” stole the show.
Thirteen-year-old, Hannah Hurley, nailed the sass of “Sally” in her adaptation of Charlie Brown’s little sister. And, Calvin Lieruance’s adaptation of “Snoopy” was his own. Bringing such an iconic animal character to life is its own challenge, and I’ll leave that to each actor to make it their own. Lieruance did that, and brought the audience to laughs several times. He had good timing.
The opening sequence was clever, featuring the core characters, each with their own spotlight. The costumes were nicely done, as was the singing throughout the performance. The sets were simple, and helped illustrate the point of the scene, while allowing the audience to focus on the character, and witty dialogue. It gave fans a chance to see the acting development progress in these young actors.
Lukens’ version of “Charlie Brown” was truly personified during the school lunch scene, where his lack of confidence was on full display as he wore a paper bag over his head, and continued with his ever-lingering self-doubt dilemma. His portrayal of America’s favorite second-guessing, but lovable, klutz, didn’t disappoint.
Sometimes, though, Charlie Brown was upstaged by DeBartolo’s “Linus” whose character was a bit stronger on stage than in the cartoons or comic strips. And that was a good thing. DeBartolo’s love affair with his blanket, as he sang and dance with the object, was also delightful, and downright hilarious. The 15-year-old has good timing, and clearly enjoys his craft.
Emily Warner as “Lucy” has a discussion with Thomas DeBartolo, who plays “Linus.”
The vintage Lucy and Schroeder piano scene showed how well these actors have been taught about comedic timing. And, the “Woodstock” birds were an added element throughout the performance.
The one character who made me laugh every time he came on stage was “Pig Pen,” played by Ben Kautz. He didn’t have too many lines, but his costume and demeanor caused this observer to laugh out loud.
At times, you wondered about the plot or direction of the play, but they usually brought it back together with a pertinent message or clever line. I’ll have to take my children with me to another showing.
Journey’s “Charlie Brown” was filled with 30-second skits between major scenes that gave more actors the opportunity to perform and gain valuable stage time. Kudos to Director Kristi Foster for that.
The play’s conclusion was vintage Charles Shulz, with a meaningful message that drew thunderous applause.
Curtain call was just past 7 pm, and the played ended just after 9 pm, with a 20-minute intermission. The play is great for “Charlie Brown” fans of all ages, and it is definitely worth your time and the price of admission. Go see it!
Clayton Lukens, as “Charlie Brown” flies a kite.
Reflections From the Cast
“I really enjoy doing this,” said Lukens. “We’ve been preparing for this night, and have practiced a lot.”
This was DeBartolo’s third performance, and it showed. His previous two shows were “Ann of Green Gables” and “Grimm’s Fairy Tales.”
“Acting is great, and it allows me to really express myself,” said DeBartolo, who’s also been an active soccer player. “We started ‘Charlie Brown’ in January, and we put a lot of time into getting this ready. Every Friday and Saturday we’d meet for four hours, and then every day for the past week in rehearsals.”
DeBartolo has been acting for two years, and continues to enjoy the process.
He said his family pays for each acting class (he has three sisters in the Journey program), and then they get the opportunity to audition for roles. His sister, Maria DeBartolo, played “Marcie.”
“I really like the energy we put into this,” DeBartolo added.
Foster has been with Journey since 2002, and serves as the group’s Executive Artistic Director.
“We like to develop each character,” said Foster. “All have stories and relationships. We enjoy the process.”
Foster said the mission of Journey is to “Guide people to Christ through theater education.” She said she enjoys seeing the kids progress.
“They learn about citizenship as they learn about acting,” she added. “Each of the actors attend classes, which are 10-week sessions located all over Southwest Washington and Portland.”
“Charlie Brown” Performance Schedule
Performances are through March 13, 2016 at Washburn Performing Arts Center at Washougal High School, 1201 39th Street, Washougal WA, 98671. Tickets are on sale now at journeytheater.org or by calling 360.750.8550. Pre-sale adult tickets are $14. Youth and senior tickets are $10. The March 5, @ 7:00 p.m. showing is a “family day” performance with all tickets $10 in advance per person. Tickets for all performances will be $4 more at the door.
School Day Performances will be offered at 9:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, March 9. Tickets are $6 each for groups of 10 – 99 and $5 each for groups of 100 or more, with one free ticket for every 15 purchased. Call our office to arrange to bring your class or home school group!
Sunday, March 6 @ 2:00 p.m.
Friday, March 11 @ 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 12 @ 3:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 13 @ 2:00 p.m.
School Day Performances
Wednesday, March 9 @ 9:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.
About Journey Theater Arts Group
Journey is the most dynamic theater arts community in the Portland/Vancouver area, offering dozens of classes in drama, dance, voice and more, as well as producing 12 shows in four locations during the school year and a professional-level community theater musical each summer. Journey strives for excellence, while providing a welcoming and encouraging environment where kids ages 6 to 18 and their families can build life-long skills and friendships. Journey is a 501(c)3 nonprofit educational organization, with offices located at 1400 NE 136th Ave, Suite 201, Vancouver WA, 98684. Contact at 360.750.8550 or www.journeytheater.org
Cast members of “Charlie Brown” act out a scene as they drive to school.