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Imagination Stage’s “Charlie Brown” highlights joys and honesty of childhood

Snoopy (Joe Mallon) and title character (Christopher Michael Richardson) enjoy special friendship in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at Imagination Stage.  COURTESY PHOTO Snoopy (Joe Mallon) and title character (Christopher Michael Richardson) enjoy special friendship in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at Imagination Stage. COURTESY PHOTO  Television specials, feature-length movies, books, dolls and figurines, a popular line of greeting cards, not to mention a hit off-Broadway musical production that has had countless revivals. What fictional character based on a comic strip receives all those honors, even after his creator has passed away?

Charlie Brown, that’s who. He and five of his pals from the Peanuts comic strip likely will bring joy to audiences in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” the musical now at Imagination Stage.

Christopher Michael Richardson plays Charlie Brown, described as an everyman with changing moods but ultimate optimism.

“Through Charlie Brown, we learn a lot about being happy and finding the positive,” said Richardson, who recently finished a run of “The Wiz” at Ford’s Theatre as the Lion. He also appeared in “Elephant and Piggie: We are in a Play!,” a production of Kennedy Center’s Theatre for Young Audiences.

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Imagination Stage puts Bollywood twist on Twain's tale of switched roles

Alex Paling, who plays The Pauper (left), and Anjna Swaminathan, who plays The Princess, are amazed at their resemblance to each other. COURTESY PHOTO BY LAURA DICURCIOAlex Paling, who plays The Pauper (left), and Anjna Swaminathan, who plays The Princess, are amazed at their resemblance to each other. COURTESY PHOTO BY LAURA DICURCIO  What’s next at Imagination Stage? “The Princess and the Pauper.”

Wait a minute, you say. Don’t you mean “The Prince and the Pauper,” Mark Twain’s beloved novel about two boys, a royal and a commoner, who look so much alike they exchange identities – and learn that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side?

Nope. Imagination Stage’s “free adaptation” of Twain, in the words of artistic director Janet Stanford, features two female heroines.

“It has a feminist twist,” Stanford said.

What’s more, the subtitle of the play is “A Bollywood Story.”

The original story took place in Tudor-era England; in this adaptation, writer Anu Yadav sets the action in a fictional kingdom in 11th-12th century India.

“As such,” said Stanford, who is directing the production, “it contains magic and the interplay of divine forces at work” – something absent from the original novel, which has more swordplay.

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Imagination Stage offers fun for those serious about the arts

Elyon Topolosky has been in the area only about four years, but he’s already performed in four productions at Imagination Stage.

Most recently, he appeared in “Bye, Bye Birdie” in one of the summer camps run by the community arts organization, whose mission is to integrate the arts into the lives of children.

“I love Imagination Stage,” said Topolosky, 13. “It’s not just a month of auditioning, learning your part, and putting on a performance. It’s a whole process – of learning different techniques, like drama, music, makeup, puppetry, dialects, and stage combat.”

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