A Charlie James Brown Christmas

This new holiday effort by the Troubadour Theater Company is a loving poke at Charles Schulz's TV cartoon classic featuring characters from his "Peanuts" strip. As Schroeder (Matthew Morgan) tinkles out Vince Guaraldi noodlings on a tiny piano, a golden, sequined cape stands draped on a center-stage mannequin — a portentous garment channeled from the Apollo Theater. Soon the program swings into gear, powered by hits from soul godfather James Brown. Positioned somewhere between a Groundlings parody sketch and Bert V. Royal’s Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, the show is mildly funny, but even at under an hour and a half seems 20 minutes too long. The evening follows the outline of the 1965 TV special, but with many detours spent imagining where Schulz's characters are likely to be when they're grown-up. Not a bad idea, but all these segments are announced by the Law and Order "stinger" and then are introduced by director Matt Walker impersonating Rod Serling doing a Twilight Zone walk-on, all of which drags things out. Standouts include Beth Kennedy's turn as budding lesbian Peppermint Patty and Lisa Valenzuela as a diminutive Lucy who can belt out "It’s a Man's World" with surprising ease. Sharon McGunigle's costumes are stars in themselves: Many of the characters sport oversize foam heads approximating Schulz's drawings, and that James Brown cape is decorated with Charlie Brown's signature zigzag. The Troubadour's seven-piece band is tight and brassy, with members sometimes drawn into the action. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 4 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Dec. 21. Continues through Jan. 20, 2007


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