OTTUMWA — Word got around, and Hillel Friedman decided to listen.
It's safe to say he doesn't regret that decision.
Almost a year to the day when it was supposed to perform, "Charlie Brown Christmas Live On Stage" will finally be presented today at 6:30 p.m. when it kicks off a 21-city tour at the Bridge View Center. The show, adapted from the original "Charlie Brown Christmas," was taken off the schedule last year because of the pandemic. The tour wraps up Dec. 22 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Now it's back, and Friedman believes better than it's ever been since it started in 2017.
"It's going to be great. It's a newly designed production. So in addition to being the first time in Ottumwa, this is a brand-new design and a new creative team," said Friedman, the general manager of the Charlie Brown Christmas national tour. "We're thrilled to be able to get the chance to kind of re-imagine the show and deliver the best version yet.
"I think it's always interesting to see how the show is going to play in different cities, and we've been very lucky to have really great turnout for the show," he said. "Usually it's only one night, so we tend to get a lot of very enthusiastic people coming up. Sometimes in a bigger city, there's so much going on that you might get kind of swallowed up. But in smaller towns, you're the main event."
The show consists of 10 cast members, with many of the familiar names — Charlie, Lucy, Linus, Sally, Snoopy, Frieda and Peppermint Patty, as well as Schroeder, Shermy and Pig-Pen.
There are also "swing" actors, as Friedman described them. They are part of the performance but not a major part. That changes if something happens to one of the main actors.
"So like if Charlie Brown is sick or something, a 'swing' would go on for a principal character. They're also in the show, doing kind of a dance track," Friedman said.
The show also will be in two acts. The first act will last about 40 minutes, followed by an intermission. The second act will take about 30 minutes, ending with "kind of a big Christmas concert pageant," Friedman said.
"That is usually one of the people's favorite moments of the show," he said.
The music will consist of the original music by Vince Guaraldi, and feature songs such as "Christmastime Is Here." But there will also be "Broadway-inspired moments" as well, Friedman said.
"There'll be dancing, singing, costumes, props, etc.," he said. "So it's kind of like a very dramatized and stylized version of the original TV special, while staying very faithful to the original."
The crew, some 30 people, have been in Ottumwa for well over a week to get set for the show. They haven't regretted a minute of it, Friedman said.
"Everybody in the theatrical industry kind of talks to one another, and we got some really great feedback about this venue," he said. "You have a costume shop on-site, a scenic shop on-site, the world-famous Chef Bob. So when you're launching a tour, this is a perfect place to be.
"It's got everything you need under one roof, and you know, our stay here has been just perfect."
Friedman said the show is 85% full, but tickets are still available for $34, $39 and $49 at the Bridge View Center box office, or by using Ticketmaster.
Friedman handles other national tours as well from his base in New York, and it's possible some of those could make it to Ottumwa as well.
"If I have anything to do with it, we'll be back," he said. "It's just been kind of perfect."