Charlie Brown Charms in Mather

ArtsMonday: Musical of classic cartoon brings smiles to crowd

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Mather House, April 17-19

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, the musical by Clark Gesner based on Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts” comic, brought loveable loser Charlie Brown and his gang off the funny pages and onto the stage last weekend. The Mather House musical, ably directed by Katherine F. O’Gara ’05, cashes in on the cuteness factor of the characters, each of whom colorfully searches for meaning in life in a way only little kids can.

The show tells the tale of a typical day in the life of Charlie Brown, relating many of the most famous scenes in the cartoon—from Charlie’s loss at the championship baseball game to Schroeder’s Beethoven performances and Lucy’s five-cent psychology. In between, the characters quip and sing songs expounding on the meaning of life, love and, most importantly, dinner.

Daniel A. Spitzer ’05 was the clear star of the show as Charlie Brown. Both his singing and acting were strong, and he conveyed Charlie’s dilemmas—be it flying a kite or trying to get the attention of the cute red-headed girl—with sympathy and humor.

In the comic strips, Charlie always asked for “a little support out there” on the baseball field. Luckily, in the theater, Spitzer’s fellow actors are better support than Charlie’s misfit team. The entire cast put in an energetic performance. Jennifer Y. Seo ’04, as Snoopy, gave a rousing homage to the famous beagel’s favorite pastime—eating supper—tapping her way from the floor to the roof of her doghouse where she imagined herself a World War II fighter pilot.

The two other women in the cast, Coley L. Barbee ’05 as the crabby Lucy and Bronwen E. Everill ’05 as the enigmatic Sally, each performed with gusto in their first Harvard roles. Barbee has a great voice and it’s too bad that she’s forced to sing off key whenever Lucy is enraged (which is most of the time). Everill is just as charming as Sally when she’s begging for a higher grade.

Linus, played by the son of Mather House Master Sandra Naddaff, Benjamin Nadaff-Hafrey, is the foil to the girls’ feistiness with his calm intellectualism. Naddaff-Hafrey, the youngest member of the cast, a sixth grader and Mather House resident, always seems to be above the fray, delivering his comic lines directly to the audience. Nadaff-Hafrey also wins the dance competition among the group for his tango with Linus’ security blanket.

Schroeder, played ably by Samuel Palmer-Amaning ’05, is the long suffering artist of the group who spends most of his time practicing Beethoven or fending off the amorous Lucy. Palmer-Amaning plays Schroeder in a more upbeat way than one might imagine the piano player to be, but it works well with the rest within the musical.

Together the ensemble pulls off a strong performance, especially in the rabbit chase scene, where Lucy, Linus, Charlie and Schroeder write book reports and struggle with procrastination, word counts and literary analysis while Snoopy and Sally chase rabbits. It’s a good sign that the Peanuts gang could understand the plight of a Harvard student. While Charlie might be left saying “good grief” at the end of the day, this production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown put a smile on the face of theater goers.

—Crimson Arts theater critic Stephanie E. Butler can be reached at sbutler@fas.harvard.edu.