A wonderful holiday show that deserved more than one performance.
By Joel Benjamin
The New York Pops’ A Charlie Brown Christmas was wonderful. The only bad thing about it was that it was performed only once on December 20th. This sensible and sensitive staging of the beloved TV classic retained all its gentle, guileless humor while being performed by sophisticated young artists, some under the direction of Diana Byer whose New York Theatre Ballet members performed choreography by Lisa Gennaro.
The opening numbers were performed by the young dancers who used the limited space in front of the Orchestra to swoop about, prancing, turning, forming little groups, then dancing all together. Bits of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker kept the holiday spirit going. Later the kids from the TADA! Youth Theater joined in to bring Charlie Brown to life.
Steven Reineke, the Pops’ personable music director and conductor, was joined by John Bolton, a Broadway veteran, currently in the lighthearted Dames At Sea, who sang “Silver Bells” (Jay Livingston/Ray Evans) and bopped about to “Jingle Bell Rock” (Joseph Carleton Beal/James Ross Boothe). As he danced, Bolton mentioned that he had always wanted to dance at Carnegie Hall!
The center piece of the evening was the life, A Charlie Brown Christmas. The New York Pops made Vince Guaraldi’s original jazz/pop/classical score sound robust and colorful without overwhelming the sweet comedy. Three terrific kids spoke the characters lines: AJ Walker as Charlie Brown, Samantha Pohly as Lucy and Michael Sanchez as Linus. They were doubled by dancers: Charlie Brown (Joshua Andino-Nieto), Lucy (Amanda Treiber), Linus (Michael Well) plus Benjamin Levine as Schroeder, Elena Zahlmann as Snoopy, Izzy Hanson-Johnston as Sally and the adorable, Finley McElhinney as the Sad Tree whose sprucing up is central to the plot. All the while, bits of the original TV show were shown on the back wall of the Carnegie Hall stage. And, let’s not forget the music!
It was cute but never cloying. All the pieces came together beautifully, providing a lovely afternoon for the children and adults and for the sophisticated and the newcomers. Even marvelous Marilyn Maye stopped by!
Photos: Maryann Lopinto
New York Pops – A Charlie Brown Christmas (December 20, 2015)
Carnegie Hall 154 West 57th Street @ 7th Avenue New York, NY
For tickets call 212-247-7800 or visit www.carnegiehall.org
For more information visit www.newyorkpops.org