Dallas — Simple. Fresh. Serene. Introspective. While these aren’t typically the adjectives used to describe children’s theater, perhaps they should be. The holiday season often overwhelms bringing almost too much of everything—too much flash, too much noise, too much glitter. In a sea of sensory overload, Dallas Children’s Theater’s production of A Charlie Brown Christmas is a lifeboat.
Eric Schaeffer’s stage adaptation based on the television special by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson that all began with Charles M. Schulz delights and captivates. K. Doug Miller creates a world that envelops its audience, convincing us that this winter wonderland is our dream come true. Seamless incorporation of video by H. Bart McGeehon and thoughtful lighting by Jason Lynch give us snow and stars and a beautiful landscape. The musicians (Adam C. Wright, Brian Mathis, and Lucas Reader) are on stage and integral to the story. This quiet and sensitive piece allows the audience time and space to soak in their environment.
Skaters venture through the theatre with a simplicity that leaves audience members young and old mesmerized by a tale we know and love. While recommended for ages five and up, my two-year-old critic was enthralled.
Prepare to fall in love with the story’s iconic characters popped into three dimensions. More than just actors playing parts, they seem to have been cut out of the funny papers, thanks to the stylized costuming by Lyle Huchton. Like many of us, Charlie Brown (Christopher Curtis) is disillusioned by the holiday season. Using physicality and vocal dimension, Curtis gives us a boy we can identify with as he struggles to find the true meaning of the season.
Along the way, we meet the cast of characters we have grown to love thanks to 50 years of the television special. Pig Pen (Caddo Lindsey) provides some of the show’s more thought-provoking one-liners with a light-hearted charm. Sally (Sarah Faye Beard) delights during the composition of her letter to Santa. Linus (Parker Fitzgerald) is the character the children seemed to most identify with. If Charlie Brown is struggling with some very adult holiday depression, Fitzgerald gives us a Linus that stays true to his friend. Through his eyes, we see the simpler meaning of the holidays and hear the age-old Christmas story.
Of course, Snoopy (Steph Garrett) steals the show at every turn without saying a word or singing a note. Hilarious in her acrobatic antics, you can’t take your eyes off her as she fetches balls and decorates her house. The bonus of the Red Baron story at the close of Christmas allows her plenty of opportunity to shine.
Audience members should note that the performance isn’t over when the main story is. In addition to the Red Baron tale, there is also a sing-along. All of this is wonderful for the kids, but be aware that there’s easily another half-hour of being seated after the play. The Charlie Brown characters continue to delight as they lead the audience in songs you can’t help but lend your voice to. After the show, let your kiddos get their favorite characters’ autographs, and take the time for a photo opportunity with Snoopy’s dog house. Be aware, Frosty and Friends is also running in the facility, and the creations by Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts are amazing.
A Charlie Brown Christmas draws you into a simpler side of the holidays. Ditch the crowds at the mall, forget about the lights on the tree that won’t stay on, and make this your newest holiday tradition. Like the feeling you have after finishing a cool peppermint candy, you’ll leave the theater refreshed and infused with the spirit of the holidays.