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

by December 2, 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 name is thought to be a joint pseudonym for Gesner and his cast), he shows us a day in the life of Charlie Brown and Peanut’s 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 the use of these copyright characters for his play.

The show ran on Broadway for 1597 performances over 4 years.

This updated version has had extra dialogue added by Michael Meyer, with the lyrics modified by Andrew Lippa.

The Murdoch Theatre Company actors, in their last show for the year, bring you this two-hour upbeat sparkling, light-hearted spectacular. There are three performances; for the Thursday and Friday night shows, the curtain rises at 7.00 pm, and on Saturday 3rd December at the earlier time of 5.30 pm.

 

The scene is Charlie’s schoolyard. The set is symbolic, being a delightful replica of the cartoon strip that we all love. A background of blue skies, clouds, a lone fir tree, a mailbox and a water hydrant; all painted in primary colours. There is a big, red kennel with a flat area on the roof – where Snoopy sleeps.

On each side of the stage is a 4 x 12 metre high flat, showing reproductions of Peanuts cartoons. In the centre of each flat is a curtained doorway. The set design and much of the artistic construction was by Jess Bennett-Hullin, who had helpers working 18 hour days to meet the deadline.

Stage Manager Meagan Dux controlled the large cast flawlessly. The flies’ operator, Sean Wcislo, was also prompt and efficient.

       Everyone seems to like the dim, shy, insecure Charlie Brown (Oliver Kaiser), but is he really a ‘Good Man’? His friends come out to praise him, but all with reservations. Today he is late for the school bus again, and despite Pig Pen (Mike Casas) holding the bus back, Charlie misses it, watching as his friends Violet (Paige Mews), Tapioca Pudding (Claire Tebbutt), Peppermint Patty (Tijana Šimić), Marcie (Rhiannon Moon), Pig Tail Girl (Briana Dunn), Patty (Isla McLeod), Peggy Jean (Grace Pusey) and Sherman (Justin Crossley) disappear into the distance.

     Snoopy (Thomas Dimmick) just turns over and goes back to sleep on top of his kennel, even when his yellow friend, Woodstock (Nashyhithah MD Zaini) arrives for a chat, he remains asleep.

     Charlie is infatuated with the red-haired girl whom he sees each lunchtime, but cannot even look at her without becoming nervous.

     Musical prodigy, Schroeder (Launcelot Ronzan) is fixated with Beethoven, and constantly plays the ‘Moonlight Sonata’ on his piano. Lucy (Paige Morawiec) adores Schroeder and explains to him how someday she will marry him and become Queen. The Intellect of the class, Linus (Will Moriarty), explains to his sister Lucy, that royalty is inherited – but Lucy is not discouraged. Despite his brains, Linus is a child at heart and is devastated when he mislays his security blanket.

       Charlie’s attractive, but dumb sister Sally (Corina Brown) cannot understand why her art class sculpture, made from coat hangers, only got a ‘D’. To cheer Sally up, Snoopy takes her rabbit hunting, but the ballet dancing bunny (Emily Botje) seems to escape every time.

       Snoopy sits on his kennel, and fanaticises of the years he was a fighter pilot in World War I and how he defeated the infamous Red Baron.

 

Director, Keaton Howe and his assistant director Claire Mosel had to find a cast that could sing well, dance gracefully and have good stage presence, whilst displaying exuberance and energy throughout the show. What a great cast they gathered. The show’s vocal coach (Thomas Dimmick) ensured the whole cast were speaking precisely and with the same drawl.

With numbers like ‘Linus’ blanket’ and the ‘Beethoven tribute’ combined the choreographers (Kelly Buckle, Sara Bluntish, Emily Botje) demanding routines led by the dance captain, Emily Botje, the tongue twisting lyrics flowed smoothly and the smiles never left the chorus’s faces. Snoopy’s solo number about his food and sloth was hilarious.

The play’s copyrighters supplied the quirky, lively music on CD. This ensured a well-balanced musical accompaniment, but CDs are unforgiving if a performer mixes up their lines or stumbles over a phrase. Musical director (Kelly Buckle) gave the cast vocal and singing guidance; with some of the major performers being talented singers, the musical numbers were perfect. In such a musical, maintaining the characterisation is more important than the vocal range or richness of tones, so that Schroeder, Lucy and Sally were most entertaining.

Jess Bennett-Hullin’s costume designs were well tailored and colour co-ordinated in simple primary colours. A great deal of attention has been given to matching any patterns with the cartoon characters e.g. Charlie’s zigzag shirt design.

Lighting designer and operator, Shannen Precious again gave us the primary colours as sky light, with some delightful effects for a star-lit sky and Snoopy’s fighting plane attacks. Shannon has teamed up well with the sound designer and operator, Katie Southwell to ensure a bright and lively event.

Finally, a quality, comedic delivery was essential. This cast had good chemistry and perfectly captured the essence of the Peanuts cartoons. From Charlie’s deadpan ‘loser’ expression; to his temperamental sister, Sally, who was too thick to realise her failures. With the fine work of the directors the characters really came to life.

This would be the perfect show to bring your kids along to – as an excuse to see it yourself! This very professional musical is for everyone! It is not often these days to have a theatre show that ALL of the family can enjoy – from age 5 to 95.

An absolute delight.