You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is a musical comedy based on the Charles Shultz comic strip. The musical was originally written in 1967, and was revived and modernized in 1999. Although the revival was short-lived on Broadway, it earned four Tony nominations, two wins, and the star-studded cast (including B.D. Wong, Roger Bart, Kristin Chenoweth and Anthony Rapp) reminded community theatres of its many appealing qualities: it’s an endearing, small-cast musical with a minimal set that is both child and adult friendly.
Simple Comic Strip Translates into Uncomplicated Musical
HE SAID: This show really harkens back to a simpler time, long before Jackass or South Park, when comedy was pleasant. And that’s how I would describe this show…pleasant. It has a few laugh out loud moments, but mostly it is just a nice time with the familiar Peanuts gang with some light-hearted, occasionally catchy songs mixed adding to the clean fun.
SHE SAID: This show is indeed pleasant. I actually find all the songs quite catchy, and some of them exceptional. Much like the Peanuts cartoons on which it’s based, it’s not notably clever, witty, or fast-paced. The humor in the vignettes is based on the premise that children often have musings about their relatively uncomplicated lives that are just as grave as you would expect from an adult. Performing this with adults is actually quite tricky — the performers have to be child-like enough to sell the innocence, but adult enough to understand how to deliver the comedy to adults.
Cute, Colorful Set Under-Utilized
HE SAID: I actually find this show should be rather fast-paced. With the bulk of the show being really short vignettes, it really clips along when it finds it stride. While most of the actors had a nice pace, the over all rhythm of this production was interrupted by numerous scene changes. I think if they had left Snoopy’s house, Lucy’s booth, and the colorful blocks on stage, not only would the set have consistently been more visually appealing but the show would have kept a better pace as well.
SHE SAID: I agree that the stage would have been more fun to look at if the fun, colorful set pieces were left to stay on throughout. They also would have complimented the costumes even more if they was left onstage more often. For me, the performances were for the most part sufficient to tell the stories of the songs (as there really is no through-line for the plot), but they rarely stretched beyond to really add a new “spin” to any of the classic characters. The energy of the cast was mixed — several cast members were always very energized, but a few of them seemed guarded, and almost uncomfortable onstage. What was great was that this hesitation seemed to mostly disappear when the performers were singing — they were clearly more in their element during the songs.
Energy Soars During Musical Numbers and Improvised Moments
HE SAID: Not to take away from the acting, but the singing was the highlight of this show. The group numbers were always strong and the authenticity of the individual performances increased during their respective solos, most noticeably with Charlie Brown played by Max Stewart. My two favorite numbers were “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” (opening and closing) which I found fantastically upbeat and “Beethoven’s Birthday” which was the vocal highlight of the show from Keith Rabin Jr. as Schroeder with the rest of the company.
SHE SAID: The best moments of the entire performance, I must say, were two unexpected and unrehearsed moments in the second act. Watching the cast have to improv a little in character to get through some difficulties with props was genuinely delightful, and made some of the performers relax a little, which made the rest of the show even more fun to watch. In particular, Matt Wessel as Linus responded to a surprisingly dull pitch from a pitch-pipe by immediately mimicking the awkward sound, which was pure comic genius.
Friendly Show Nails Family Demographic
THEY SAID: If you are looking for an easy time out with the family, this is the show for you. The kids in the audience LOVED it, as did some of the parents. Not family person? You may not roll in the aisles from laughter, but there are several good chuckles in there and we bet you’ll leave with a smile. What’s not to smile about? It’s the Peanuts gang dancing their signature moves and singing some catchy songs!
For more a full plot synopsis and history of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, see the wikipedia article. You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown presented by Inspire Creative plays through October 23 at the studio theatre at Aurora Fox. Click the banner below for tickets and more information.