Now that I have moved to the West Coast I am slowly setting up all my systems and favorite places. A decent bakery, of course. The right grocery store, check. And of course theater! This has been sadly handicapped by Covid, which shut all entertainment down for more than a year. But now things are slowly coming back. I’m going to see Hadestown next week, a touring production! And I’ve been dipping into the community theater companies around town.
Unquestionably the most promising so far is the Broadway Rose Theater Company, in Tigard, Oregon. Even the name bodes well, and this month they’re staging You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. This is a perennial show for small theater groups, with its small cast, simple staging and wide appeal. It’s a prudent choice for a group that surely took some painful financial hits over the past year or so. This production is excellently cast and solidly presented. Clearly I need to keep an eye on these people and see what their 2022-23 season is going to be like.
I hope they’ll have the ambition and resources to be bolder. Because the difficulties I have with Charlie Brown are rooted in the source material. There can be no plot because the comic strip had no plot. Peanuts was an endless series of three-panel vignettes, with a longer Sunday strip once a week. It was perfectly satisfactory on the page, and even as a TV movie it was okay, but set on stage critics have complained that it’s a little thin. Live theater demands more. The most successful moments are the bigger numbers that are more loosely based on the comic strip. It is always and forever a delight to see “The Book Report“, and “Suppertime” has been a vehicle straight to a Tony award. I can see why the creators felt they had to stick close to the supremely-popular comic strip. But it’s a bad sign, when the show goes better the more you diverge from the source material.