One of America’s favorite television Christmas specials will be brought to life onstage when Armstrong Community Theater presents “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” on Nov. 29 and 30 at the Worthington Civic Center.
The play was created for the theater group by Emily Younkins, who also directs the production. It is closely based on the annual television special.
“It’s a classic that we all grew up watching,” Younkins says. “It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen it, you still watch it.”
Most audience members will be familiar with the heartwarming story of Charlie’s search for the true meaning of Christmas. As the holiday approaches, Charlie is saddened by the commercialism he sees all around him. When the other kids laugh at the scrawny tree he chooses, he begins to wonder whether he even knows what Christmas is all about.
After Linus recites the Christmas story from the Bible, the other children follow Charlie home and help him decorate his tree. Charlie is surprised at their kind gesture, and they all wish him a merry Christmas before joining in to sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
“It shows you that commercialism isn’t the way that Christmas is supposed to be celebrated,” Younkins says. “It’s good to be reminded of that every year.”
With the exception of Snoopy, all the characters in the play are portrayed by adults. Charlie Brown is played by Paul Wright, who says the story’s message has a timeless appeal.
“The message that it sends is about how people get so lost in the commercialism of Christmas that they lose the true meaning of it,” Wright says.
While the play follows the TV plot, there are extra elements added from other Charlie Brown specials, such as the glee-club scene from the Broadway musical, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
“It’s hilarious,” Wright says.
Although the actors will dress like the cartoon characters and act like them, there are differences. “We’re making Charlie Brown into a real person,” Wright says.
Presenting the show and offering the tickets at a minimal cost is a way for the theater to thank its loyal audience.
“It’s our way of giving back to those who have helped us out during the year,” Wright says.
Charlie’s little sister, Sally, is played by Karissa Lloyd.
“Sally’s fun because she’s one of the youngest of the Peanuts gang,” Lloyd says. “She’s the bubbly younger kid who’s always trying to hang out with the older kids.”
Lloyd says that she and the other cast members enjoy bringing the beloved characters to life onstage. “It’s fun for all of us to let our inner children out to play,” she says. “Whether you’re 3 or 93, most people recognize the Peanuts characters.”
Santa Claus will visit after each show. Audience members can buy chances to win a Peanuts-themed gift basket and try their luck in a 50-50 raffle drawing.
The evening will last a little over an hour, including the visit by Santa.
Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.