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Are you like Charlie Brown some years, wondering what the true meaning of Christmas is?

Maybe Lucy is right — it’s a big commercial racket. The 1965 TV special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” epitomizes the conflict many face as they head into the holidays. The 30-minute special was the first film adaptation of Charles Shultz’s "Peanuts" gang, and for many, it’s not Christmas without watching how this group of kids save the Christmas spirit.

Charlie Brown and Linus

With elbows up to their chins, Charlie Brown, left, and his best friend, Linus, contemplate the true meaning of Christmas at their favorite neighborhood contemplation wall.

The TV special has been adapted as a stage production with adult actors portraying the "Peanuts" gang. Professional actor Casey Martin Klein is tasked with bringing the 2D cartoon character Charlie Brown to the stage. Klein said it’s all about releasing his inhibitions.

“It’s about having a good time and not feeling too cool to look silly on stage,” Klein said in a phone interview. “Something I am trying to work at is playing and surprising my cast mates and not getting stuck in my adult brain.”

Klein is on his first national tour, performing in “A Charlie Brown Christmas, Live on Stage,” which stops at the Alberta Bair Theater on Wednesday, Dec. 20, for a 7:30 p.m. show. Tickets range from $25 for students to $45.

The stage production features a live band playing the original Vince Guaraldi music from the TV special and a performing a mini-concert at the close of the show. The plot of the stage production follows the TV special with Charlie Brown directing a pageant featuring the "Peanuts" gang. Charlie is thrilled to direct the show, but he worries that he is missing something.

“Throughout the play, he’s on an epic journey to finding something and he doesn’t realize until the end what he is looking for,” Klein said. “He looks at this holiday season as bringing mixed messages. By the end of the play when Charlie’s friends rally around him and fix up the tree, he realizes he is surrounded by friends.”

Klein said the show appeals to young and old. The sentimental yearning that Charlie feels is more of an adult emotion, but children also feel the pressure and longing during the holidays.

The show celebrates the little moments of life.

Linus and Lucy in 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'

Bossy big sister Lucy intimidates Linus in 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.'

“It’s not a knee slapper every minute. It’s a patient show; that’s the beauty of the piece. The audience doesn’t need to feel any pressure to be constantly laughing or applauding.”

Klein said the jazz music featured in the production is so much a part of the holidays that he hears it everywhere.

“I was sitting in Starbucks and heard the music come on. It’s iconic.”

The live jazz trio featured in the show consists of actors playing Schroeder, Shermie and Pigpen. Klein plays guitar during the mini-concert when they play familiar Christmas songs.

“Last night we were in Bend, Oregon, and we had the audience singing along the whole time to every song," Klein said. "We even had audience members saying some of the lines with us.

"Hopefully, you’ll leave the theater ready for Christmas.”


Entertainment Reporter

Jaci Webb covers entertainment for The Billings Gazette.