A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, PA
December 6, 2016
Review submitted by Max Weinstein of Barrack Hebrew Academy
Academy of the New Church’s A Charlie Brown Christmas is a refreshing reimagining of the Peanuts cartoon as a play. In addition to taking the script of the original It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas film, Academy of the New Church’s play incorporates multiple scenes from the cartoon series, making it an original, fast-paced collection of funny vignettes.
All these small stories, which were grouped together to form the show, create a cohesive plot as Christmas draws nearer for Charlie Brown and his friends. The characters start thinking about what they should get for their friends, whether or not they should ask to be in the school Christmas play, and how they should write their letters to Santa Claus. Throughout the play, one theme keeps rising up: commercialism. Charlie and Linus have to find meaning in Christmas when all around them people are only focusing on money and presents. The play ends with the kids all singing a Christmas carol; Charlie and Linus succeed in bringing Christmas cheer to their neighborhood.
The production was original not only because of how it was formed, but also because in every performance, there were two Charlie Browns, two Linuses, two Lucies, two Patties, two Sallies, and two Marcies. This really opened up a lot of opportunities for blocking, and they took advantage of this. This decision allowed for very fast and smooth scene transitions.
The show had a very strong technical aspect, especially with lighting and set design. Because of the nature of the show, there were many set pieces, and the school’s stagecraft class put them all together very well. The set pieces were very cartoonish, which really helped make the audience feel as though they were actually watching the Peanuts cartoon strips. The lighting for this show was also more difficult, as there were many different things happening in different places in some scenes, and the lighting crew, composed of Cat Fuller, Kevin Buss, Haley Hollsworth, and Alexis Nakos, performed the transitions in between these parts very quickly and efficiently. The lighting crew also shone in one scene where Sally, Charlie, Linus, and Lucy were writing letters to Santa, and there were projections of letters being written that were timed with the actors’ lines.
A Charlie Brown Christmas took the Peanuts which we know well and portrayed it on stage through a mixture of original ideas and a good crew. The show was, all things considered, very good.
Review submitted by Nick Sutton of Phoenixville Area High School
A Charlie Brown Christmas, performed by Academy of the New Church, was a truly exquisite production. With a large and talented cast, excellent tech crews, and inventive ideas, this show was able to incorporate the Christmas theme in with many laughs.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is a television special that came out in the 1960s based off the very popular Peanuts comics and takes aim at the over-commercialization of Christmas. Charlie Brown is depressed over several aspects of his life that are not going right. In an attempt to help offset his poor mood, he volunteers to direct a local play which only results in bullying by his peers. However, the play ends with a true coming together, a trait that resounds in Christmastime.
In an interesting twist on double casting, most of the major roles had two actors performing the roles, which allowed the show to have very quick transitions, just like a cartoon. So Galen Stevens-King (Charlie Brown) was able to present the more optimistic and childish aspects of his character while Zach Lambertus (Charlie Brown) put forth a more cynical view of his. Both of which were fantastic and felt like one was watching the Christmas special in front of their TV instead of on a stage.
The ensemble also did an impressive job in that they personified their characters perfectly. In the dancing scene when all the children were goofing off instead of rehearsing, all the actors did the same dances as their characters in the cartoon, and did them amazingly. If one were to line up the cartoon against the play, they would have seen an exact copy.
The tech team was exceptionally strong. The stage crew met the demands of the fast scene changes and made them very fluid, wasting almost no time. Lighting and sound did an excellent job of highlighting the focus points in scenes. But their special effects were to die for. They had snow machines that left the feel of a winter wonderland and they were able to project the writing of characters on the screen.
This show was supposed to be funny since it was a cartoon for kids, but Ava Elder (Snoopy) went above and beyond that. In every scene, one had to watch her because even when she wasn’t the main focus, she was still interacting with something or someone in a hilarious way.
All in all, A Charlie Brown Christmas by Academy of the New Church is definitely a show anyone would want to watch because of their amazing cast and tech crew.