“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is sentimental, sweet and short — a splendid holiday gift from Diamond Head Theatre perfectly timed to combat the stress and challenges of the yuletide season.
It’s sentimental, because it’s comforting and cute — a live-action rendering of the eternal, animated TV special featuring the “Peanuts” gang, complete with Vince Guaraldi’s iconic jazz score.
It’s sweet, because the show humanizes the Charles M. Schulz franchise of characters we’ve all grown up with and loved, with all their idiosyncratic personalities intact.
You’ll recognize ‘em: Charlie Brown (Mathias Maas), made miserable by the materialism of the season, challenged to moderate his attitude by directing a Christmas show; Lucy (Ixchel Samaniego), dispensing her psychiatric tirades (still at 5 cents a session); Snoopy (Celia Chun), decorating his dog house to reflect the holiday spirit while also attempting to snag a prize; Linus (Moku Durant), thumb in mouth and toting his security blanket; and Schroeder (Brandon Saballa), striking out Beethoven notes as well “Jingle Bells” on his toy piano.
It’s also short, because the show runs a mere 50 minutes, over eight tidy scenes, to accommodate restless wee ones (and some adults, too). A surprise: Charlie Brown’s infamous skimpy Christmas tree (spoiler alert) is actually a tyke here — adorably portrayed by Pono Lundell — in a brown suit with a few green leaves.
The production, which premiered Friday, is sandwiched between a somewhat confusing prologue about families assembling to watch the TV classic and a post-curtain carol sing-along of favorites like “Silent Night” (in English and in Hawaiian), “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Jingle Bells.”
Director Ike Webster is blessed with a talented bunch. He pulls the heartstrings in some of the scenes and inspires his ensemble to deliver the show’s message: compassion and connections with friends and family matter, not things.
Choreographer Chun works in some of her personal solo magic as Snoopy and steers her cast through myriad precision turns, from faux skating to ballroom dancing.
Costumer Karen G. Wolfe must have had the most fun creating garb like Lucy’s bow-in-the-back dress and Pig-Pen’s (Joshua Haili-Silva) dust-above-the-ankles outfit, and Linda Lockwood’s hair and makeup designs are true to Schultz’s drawings.
Set designer Christine Sutrov’s wintery cut-out trees on both sides of the proscenium, plus Christmas-lot trees in assorted shapes, are crisp and colorful. Dawn Oshima’s lights and Cameron Olson’s sound provide spot-on visual and aural clarity.
Orchids, too, to director-conductor Webster’s three-piece combo, which was small but effective.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” couldn’t have arrived at a better time, after a year of exasperating political turmoil and intrigue and the ongoing tsunami of sexual harassment allegations that dominate news and the late-night programs.
Good grief, if you can’t find happiness in your heart from this musical production, you may be a Grinch.
Adapted for the stage by Eric Schaeffer, from the TV special by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson, with music by Vince Guaraldi. Directed by Ike Webster (also musical conductor), choreography by Celia Chun, costumes by Karen G. Wolfe, sets and props by Christina Sutrov, lighting by Dawn Oshima (lighting), sound by Cameron Olson, hair and makeup by Linda Lockwood, stage management by Shilo Qalo. Cast: Mathias Maas (Charlie Brown), Celia Chun (Snoopy), Ixchel Samaniego (Lucy), Moku Durant (Linus), Joshua Haili-Silva (Pig Pen), Jessy Luke (Freida), Brandon Saballa (Schroeder), Erisan Awaya (Violet), Brooke Lynn Alcuran (Sally), Brittany Everage (Patty), Anthony Lee (Shermy). Running time: 50 minutes with no intermission.
“A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS”
Presented by Diamond Head Theatre
>> Where: 35 Makapuu Ave.
>> When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 23; 3 p.m. matinees Dec. 9, 16 and 23; single Wednesday show at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20
>> Tickets: $15-$50; 733-0274