‘You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by June 3, 2016

‘You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown’ is a 1967, award winning musical, based on Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip ‘Peanuts’. The playwright was John Gordon (this is thought to be a joint pseudonym for Gesner and the cast), he shows us a day in the life of Charlie Brown and his Peanuts gang. On the advice of the producer Arthur Whitelaw, Clark Gesner added the music and lyrics later. It took Gesner about five years to get use of these copyright characters for his play. The show ran for 1597 shows over 4 years.

This updated show has had extra dialogue added by Michael Meyer, and lyrics modified by Andrew Lippa.

This two-hour, bright, lively, light-hearted spectacular is brought to you by a cast of young adult actors (14 – 20 ish), and is presented by the Garrick Theatre Club, at the Garrick Theatre, 16 Meadow Street, Guildford. The curtains go up every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8.00 pm, and Sunday afternoons 5th and 12th at 2.00 pm.

The Garrick has a three-hour class (TAG – teens at Garrick) once a month for youngsters who want to learn stage skills.

 

The set is a wonderful copy of the cartoon we all love. A background of blue skies, clouds, a path through the grass and a lone fir tree, all painted in primary colours (Nicole Tonkin, Cherie Tucker, Lisa Johnston). There is a big, red kennel with a flat area on the roof – for Snoopy to sleep. Each character has a wooden box, painted in their colour, adorned with their faces (artwork Annette Underhill).

The set construction was by Brad Hassett, Dave Stevens, Mirekle and Jennifer Bejr and Clayton Reichert. Amber Southall, who along with Celeste produced the colourful programme, also put a great deal of work into the foyer display of Peanuts cartoons and drawings.

 

       Today is a good day. Everyone seems to like shy, insecure Charlie Brown (Liam Gobbert), but is he really a ‘Good Man’? Most days he is obsessed with the red-haired girl whom he sees each lunchtime. Some day he may have the courage to sit next to her.

      Music student, Schroeder (Caleb Stevens) is obsessed with Beethoven, playing the ‘Moonlight Sonata’ on the piano, day in day out; but adoring Lucy (Brittany Isaia) doesn’t mind, she just watches him and drools – fanaticising about how, some day, she will become a Queen and marry Schroeder.

      Snoopy (Liam Borbas) does not talk much; he prefers to lie on top of his kennel, gazing at the clouds. Genius Linus (Charlie Darlington) – Lucy’s brother – wanders past clutching his security blanket. He may be intelligent, but he is a dreamer and child at heart. His schoolyard friends try to steal his blanket, but in a delightful scene, he sits and imagines all the security blankets coming alive and dancing.

       Charlie’s attractive but dumb sister, Sally (Tania Morrow) shows everyone her latest sculpture, made from coat hangers! Why did she only get a ‘D’?

       Snoopy dreams and fanaticises of the years he was a fighter pilot in World War I and how he defeated the Red Baron.

 

We spend a few days with Charlie and his friends, enjoying their adventures and ‘living’ many of his cartoon strips.

The costumes (Celeste Underhill, Fran Gordon, with wigs by Lynda Stubbs) were colour co-ordinated and beautifully finished off. Clayton Reichert and Brad Hassett’s lighting was well planned and operated. Ben Anderson and Alexander Fleckner capably operated Geoff Holt’s fun sound design.

The cartoon syndicate and copyrighters supplied the quirky, lively music. Krispin Maesalu, Karl and Christina Dietrich gave the cast vocal and singing guidance. The cast were all very talented singers, who could belt out the song perfectly whilst dancing and smiling. Amber Southall precisely taught the New York accents.

Even though the director, Celeste Underhill, is a talented dance teacher and experienced director, for this unusual show, she had to find a cast that could speak with an American accent, sing well, dance gracefully, and have good stage presence, whilst displaying exuberance and energy throughout the show. Finally, an excellent comedic delivery was essential. With young actors, having one of these talents is admirable, but to find half a dozen players with all of these talents is amazing. This cast had huge chemistry, and engaged the audience from the opening scene.

This is a feel-good show for all of the family. 6 to 96 year olds will love it. Great fun.