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Peanuts gang comes alive on stage
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SAUTEE — It’s a tough life if you’re a round-headed kid who can’t even kick a football.

Charles Schulz illustrated the "Peanuts" comic strip for more than 50 years, and Charlie Brown’s life never got any easier.

It was no surprise to him. "I never liked me anyway," Charlie Brown said.

Now, Charlie Brown, a few of his friends and even Linus’ "security blanket" have jumped from the comics page to the stage at Black Bear Dinner Theatre in Sautee. "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown" will be on stage through Oct. 21.

Husband and wife Chris Wright (Charlie Brown) and Katie Deal (Lucy van Pelt) of Gainesville star in the show alongside a cast that includes a few other familiar faces.

"It’s really nice to be able to work so close to home and work together," Deal said.

Deal plays Lucy, an 8-year-old psychiatrist who could use a little couch time herself. Schroeder, played by Mark LaCoursiere, tries to tell Lucy about her issues:

"I’m sorry to have to say it to your face, Lucy, but it’s the truth. You’re a very crabby person," he said. "I know your crabbiness has probably become so natural to you now, you’re not even aware that you’re being crabby, but it’s true just the same. You’re a very crabby person."

"It’s a mixture of all of my nieces," Deal said of playing Lucy, whose main aspirations include becoming a queen and picking on Charlie Brown.

The dialogue between adults and children remains the same in "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown" as in the comic strip and movies.

A succession of inaudible "wah-wahs" from Sally’s teacher gets a sassy response from Sally (Karla Owens), who is complaining about her grades: "The squeaky wheel gets the grease," she said.

Josh Noble (Linus), a Black Bear regular, along with Owens, is back on the stage, joined by newcomer Joseph Baez (Snoopy).

Baez enacts Snoopy’s wild dreams atop his doghouse, managing to "become" the ambitious pup and his many alter egos.

Linus’ dancing security blanket is played by former Academy of Performing Arts dance student Jessica Daniel of Gainesville.

Wright, who shaves his head on each performance day to get the Charlie Brown look, said he tried to get in the mind of a child for his role.

"Instead of trying to be a cartoon character, it’s just trying to be a kid," he said.

Schulz’s "kids" are deeper thinkers than some adults.

Linus waxes philosophical while sucking his thumb, Lucy dispenses psychiatric advice (and only for a nickel) and Schroeder celebrates "Beethoven Day" in honor of the great composer.

The simplest of activities — not receiving a valentine, losing the baseball game or not getting the attention of the "little red-haired girl"— are a big deal to Charlie Brown, like most kids.

But was Schulz speaking to only kids with "Peanuts?"

Think about the last time you got upset because you got stuck in traffic or someone didn’t serve your coffee just right.

Wright said "Peanuts" gives a voice to all the feelings kids say out loud but adults suppress.

"We make a bigger deal of smaller things," he said. "When you do not succeed or it doesn’t go your way, you’re not being spoiled, you’re just being a kid — and you cry."

Deal said kids and adults both can enjoy the show.

"Sometimes we have shows where the kids are laughing hysterically, and they get everything, and sometimes we have audiences where the adults get all the jokes," Deal said.

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