On the Stage
You're a Good Man Charlie Brown Book and Lyrics by Cahrles Schultz Directed by Henry Biggs At Winthrop House JCR Through May 3
TO THOSE WHO think wisdom most often resides in the mouths of babes, beware: You're a Good Man Charlie Brown is a kiddie show that's cutesy not clever. Given that it is a staged distortion of situations best left to the newspaper pages--or, if necessary, TV specials--the talented company does a respectable job of entertaining the little ones.
The charity production (its take goes to Phillips Brooks House) is an adequate rendition of what is often a dopey, inane script. Just like Garry Trudeau's poorly-received attempt to make his Doonesbury into a musical, Charlie Brown shows that funny comic strips don't always make funny musicals.
Given the deficiencies of the genre, the cast of Charlie Brown, led by actor-director Henry Biggs, does well enough, eliciting giggle and aw's from the audience of tots and teenyboppers. The several dozen children who were there Saturday will testify to that. They were smiling and laughing out loud.
The performers appear to enjoy what they're doing and their enthusiasm is contagious. That's fortunate--because by no means do Biggs and company produce a visually or verbally exciting show. The sets and costumes aren't much, the choreography is just sufficient and the jokes are familiar to those who've seen either the cartoon or the animated specials before.
The production is a two-act, 14-scene concoction of songs, dance routines, and comic interchanges, each inspired by a facet of the of the long-running strip. They include the baseball game, Snoopy's supper, and Chuck's kite foibles among others.
Charlie Brown (Steve Lyne), is a clod who fails at everything he tries, and then screams "Aaaargh." But in spite of his many shortcomings, he's also a human being--just like YOU, kiddies--and that makes him (and YOU) special and life just dandy. Lyne churns out an uninspiring but passable performance in a role that doesn't leave much room for inspiration.
THE REST OF GANG'S HERE too--or at least most of the gang. Apparently, Woodstock's schtick isn't stock, and Sally, Marcie, and Pig Pen have been excised.
But we do get Snoopy (Rob McManus) who sparkles as the feline-hating World War I flying ace. Lucy Van Pelt (Ann Henry) is the obnoxious big-sister and homespun-psychiatrist that we've come to expect. Blanket-armed Linus (Ron Duvernay), Lucy's brother, is an intellectual version of the picked-on innocent. And Schroeder (Biggs) and his piano, are sweetly in line with the musical prodigy Schultz penned. The only unrecognizable old-timer is Peppermint Patty (Jennifer Joss). In the strip she is a loveably irritating tomboy. Joss turns her into a shallow, bubbly valley-girl.
The humor will bore Peanuts aficionados, but may evoke smiles from a less sophisticated audience. Especially well-done is a scene which requires most of the cast to write essays on Peter Rabbit. The essays are sung aloud in well-blended and well-performed sketch. Lucy approaches the assignment with characteristic single-mindedness. Schroeder waxes poetic. And Linus examines the psychological motivating factors implicit in the story.
The set could be called minimalist or slipshod, depending on your distance from theater lingo. There's a blue curtain backdrop that came Federal Express through the local time warp from an elementary school somewhere in your past; there's a yellow bench with paint drippings down the side; and there's the now-classic red doghouse spoiled by the addition of green pine trees on the side.
If you do go, don't go alone. Take a youngster. And remember, since PBH kids and their "big siblings" see it free, those laughing hardest won't be laughing at Charlie Brown hijinxs, but at the adults who put out the cash to get in.