SARATOGA SPRINGS — Home Made Theater’s staging of this Christmas classic (a 2013 adaptation by Eric Schaeffer of the iconic 1965 TV cartoon) is utterly sure, thanks to director Laurie Larson’s knowledge of her audience. Kids were half the crowd at Saturday’s matinee, the youngest of whom I saw was a toddler, prettily dressed up for the special occasion–a fact that warmed my old-school heart. That bunch demanded color, lights, pratfalls, silly dancing, exaggerated emotions, and a dog.
The kids got ‘em all! Teens and adults needed color, wit (some bits borrowed from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”), and nostalgia, prompted by the famous Vince Guaraldi theme song. We got ‘em. Oh, and we all needed a 30-minute first act, a brief intermission, and a 30-minute second act. Bam! We got ‘em! Larson also knows about the infamous Spa Little Theater acoustics that swallow some voices and not others and that require most performers to stand and deliver out to the house.
The talented young adult cast seems mindful of that fact and generally conveys the sweet humor of Charles M. Schulz’s quirky gang of children with clarity. And I bet the kids in the seats get the overall message of the story, with a little coaxing from their caregivers: giving is better than getting. It takes Charlie Brown’s (Aaron M. Lambert) antipathy to the greedy aspect of the Christmas season, so humorously conveyed by the “innocent” kids, like Sally (the delightful Amanda Martini-Hughes), as they itemize their wish lists aloud, to finally bring about a change in their selfish attitudes (reinforced by a mini-sermon by Frank Perilli’s Linus). Kudos all around, starting with producing manager Stacie Mayette Barnes, who once again has raised the tech bar high: the show satisfies the senses, thanks to a creative tech team: Kevin Miller (tech director), Susan Turner (stage management), Mary Fran Hughes (scenic design), Matthew T. Teichner (lighting), Sherry Recinella (costumes), Wende Smith (props), and Tom Moeller & Barry Streifert (sound). As Peppermint Patty, Patti Mullin expertly elicits laughs. Robin Wissler — he of the loud and clear voice — makes Pig Pen a character we’d like to know more about. Lambert occasionally rushes his lines, but his rubbery face, slouching shoulders, and exasperated gestures speak volumes. And Kristine Hanlon’s wise Snoopy provides silent canine commentary on the comical human condition. Home Made Theater rightly calls this production a “holiday offering for families.” Unfortunately, I didn’t have our granddaughter along, but the two small boys seated behind me were all over this show, with one proclaiming his new-found interest in live theater. Hats off to the grandmother who brought them!
“A Charlie Brown Christmas”
WHERE: Home Made Theater, Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Spa State Park
WHEN: Dec. 11, 1:00; Dec. 16, 7:30; Dec. 17, 1:00 & 4:30; Dec. 18, 1:00
HOW MUCH: adults, $18; children 12 and under, $12
MORE INFO: 587.4427, or homemadetheater.org