The Peanuts gang is back in a huge way and despite a big screen debut in state of the art 3D animation, they haven't changed in the least bit since Charles M. Shulz created them in the 1950's. They are still riddled with the idiosyncrasies common to the childhood experience. In addition to their movie debut, they are making an appearance at the James F. Dean Theatre for the next two weekends singing and dancing in the 1999 Broadway revival of Clark Gesner's classic musical "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown."
The original musical premiered Off-Broadway at an East Village theater with a total of 1597 performances and a Broadway production opened in 1971 with 32 performances. It featured Peanuts characters Charlie Brown, Linus, Schroeder, Lucy, Patty, and Snoopy. A 1999 Broadway revival featured new dialogue and additional songs with one major change to the characters with the replacement of Patty with Charlie Brown's sister, Sally. The 1999 production is the one now playing at the James F. Dean Theater in Summerville.
The Peanuts comic strip, on which the play is based, is called the most popular and influential in history. It is largely based on Shulz's own childhood experiences. In this comic strip, kids rule. An adult has never appeared in the comic strip and in the television specials featuring the Peanuts gang. When an adult is heard, what they say is totally irrelevant and represented by a "WaWaWa," which to me is some of the funniest parts of the dialogue. It is utilized once in the play when Sally approaches her teacher concerning the "C" she received on her coat-hanger sculpture. It cracked me up.
Assembled in progressive rising levels, the unchanging set designed by Robert Venne is crayon box colorful featuring square blocks, a small, purple piano, a giant, red doghouse and a live, sky-blue piano positioned at the top where Sarah Morrison flawlessly hammered out the musical cues and scores from start to finish. The costumes designed by Patti Kelly were exactly what they needed to be.
Sara Armistead is awesome as Sally Brown. She portrayed her character with child-like authenticity and shined as she led her dog Snoopy on an epic rabbit-chasing adventure in "Peter Rabbit" and as she charmed her teacher into upping the C-grade on her coat-hanger art saying, "Its the squeaky wheel that gets the grease." She then capped of her winning performance in "My New Philosophy."
Jessica Wells was the perfect choice for the crabby and bossy Lucy. She just physically emits that quality of being a force to contend with. She was convincingly endearing in the vignette "Little Known Facts" where Lucy teaches Linus about nature the way she views it explaining to him that bugs make the grass grow, clouds make the wind blow, snow comes up from the ground or eating eagles for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Allison Brower secured many of the plays laughs as the ferociously imaginative, supremely confident, world-famous beagle, Snoopy. She safely and successfully succeeded at maintaining her balance high atop her big, red doghouse as her character pondered life and engaged in aerial combat with the notorious Red Baron. Her glowing moment was in the vignette "Suppertime."
Charlie Brown, the lovable loser dressed in the recognizable black zig-zag shirt, was pitifully played by Erik Brower, and I mean that in a complimentary way. He had the frowning expression, the slumping shoulders, and wilting walk down pat. Seeing him with a bag over his head was priceless.
Other notable scenes include Robert Venne dancing with his blanket as Linus in "My Blanket and Me" and Randolph Middleton as Schroeder leaning over his little, purple piano playing Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" and fending off Lucy's advances.
Chelsea DeRoche and Company did an excellent job bringing it all together with a well rehearsed and clearly executed presentation. The live piano play and performers were in complete sync throughout the play. As a group, the vocals were pleasant and suitably matched.
"You're A Good Man Charlie Brown" does not have a heavy plot nor does it have a social statement weaved within its storyline. It is simply a delightful, upbeat, and heartwarming play about a bunch of kids and a dog going about the business of dealing with their little, complicated lives. It is a feel-good play in which you just might see a little bit of yourself when you were that age. Your kids will love it and you will leave smiling.
You can purchase tickets at "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown."
Now showing December 4th to 20th and the Flowertown Players ask you to consider this: