Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat

The fledgling Footlight Theatre Company offers a delightful look at the joys - and challenges - of childhood in its first musical production, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown!"

A crisp cast and sharp live music bring to life a fantasy world that proves oddly yet easily believable - a cartoon world inhabited by the clumsy, kindhearted Charlie Brown, his spry and eternally perky sister Sally, the blanket-clutching philosopher Linus Van Pelt and his frenetic sister Lucy, classical pianist Schroeder, the singing dog Snoopy - also a World War I fighter ace - and his little feathered friend, Woodstock.

What's not to like? Even the letdowns are played for laughs - Charlie Brown's doomed attempts to woo the Little Red Haired Girl, Charlie Brown's empty mailbox on Valentine's Day, Charlie Brown's failure to pitch a winning baseball game.

Good grief!

The technical crew puts the rudimentary set, props, sound and lighting to effective use, leaving the powerhouse cast plenty of room to show their talents.

Area favorite John C. Brown stars in the title role, adding another trophy to his collection of impressive performances. Here, Brown packs a powerful singing voice to accompany his portrayal of the befuddled but benevolent magnet for never-ending troubles.

Romy Evans is a whirlwind of delight as Sally Brown, highly mobile, contagiously bubbly and astutely observant of human character.

Lucy Van Pelt, played by Susan Chapman, is Sally's philosophical opposite, generally antagonistic and unconcerned with the concerns of others - Charlie Brown's in particular. Fresh off her winning role as Mary Bailey in Sierra Repertory Theatre's hit "It's a Wonderful Life - A Live Radio Drama," Chapman delivers a convincing performance, complete with her redeeming closing line.

Quinn Fowler brings dimension to the role of Linus Van Pelt, a wise youth with an unshakable attachment to his security blanket.

As Schroeder, Jason Kell makes a welcome return to the area stage after an absence of several years.

Filling the key role of Snoopy is New York stage professional Allie Foote, who flew in to Tuolumne County to play the part. A fine singing voice and endearing demeanor make her a pleasure to watch.

Also charming, without speaking a word, is Bryn Merrill as Snoopy's pal Woodstock. She flits about in an impressive manner and is able to draw the audience in with little more than a change of expressions.

The play unfolds around a series of vignettes, involving blankets, kites, Beethoven, Valentine's Day, baseball, supper, little known facts, Lucy's psychiatry booth and more, accompanied by 14 catchy, pleasant songs.

Peanut butter sandwiches and carrots are included with every ticket.

Footlight Artistic Director Anthony De Page directs, with musical direction by Rick Moore, vocal direction by Dennis Brown, costumes by Linda Glick and choreography by Ashley Flowers.

The musicians are Dennis Brown on piano, Rick Moore on synthesizer and reeds and Billy Parks on percussion.

The play continues at 7 p.m. today through Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Angelo's Hall at 11209 State St. in Columbia State Historic Park.

This is the last weekend to see the play since its original schedule was cut by a week due to scheduling conflicts.

General admission is $20, $18 for students and seniors and $16 for children age 6 to 12. A family pass for two adults and two children is available for $65.

"You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown!" is Footlight Theatre's third production and first musical.

Its first play was the Christmas dinner-theater melodrama, "Misdeeds at Mistletoe Mine" or "The Sanity Clause," followed by the Valentine's murder mystery dinner-theater, "Curse of the Nugget of Love."

De Page said the company has two full seasons lined up for 2014 and 2015.

For reservations or more information, call 728-8072 or