You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown is a musical based on the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, with book, music and lyrics by Clark Gesner. This production is directed by the renowned lyricist Anthony Drewe. It first opened at an off-Broadway theatre in 1967, so all I can say is that I am glad it has finally made it to the UK, where it is now shown for the first time at the Tabard Theatre in London.
It features all the familiar Peanuts characters: Schroeder, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, Sally and of course Charlie Brown. The story is quite simple, a bit cheesy, very funny and, most of all, heart-warming. I just couldn’t help smiling through-out most of the musical, because it was a joy to watch such a charming little musical. It’s all about friendship and growing-up and what makes someone good.
Charlie Brown is played by Lewis Barnshaw (who I last saw as Cooking Stove on the very same stage!). He is wonderfully naive, endearing and awkward. You just can’t help liking him.
Mark Anderson plays Snoopy. His dry comments and monologues probably got the most laughs tonight, and not only because he accidentally broke off one of the wooden propeller blades of his “doghouse plane”. Suppertime was one of the highlights of the show for me.
Hayley Gallivan as Sally Brown is great, too. She has an incredible voice and is very funny. I especially liked her in My New Philosophy.
Leanne Jones is probably best known for playing Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray and now we get her as Lucy van Pelt. She was so funny in her “survey” scene, but she also has some nice, less crabby moments in the show. Great chemistry with Adam Ellis.
Adam Ellis plays Linus van Pelt, Lucy’s younger brother. I think the word that best sums his performance up is sweet, especially his lisp. And he’s incredibly funny too. My Blanket and I was amazing!
Nathaniel Morrison as Schroeder was very good as well. His expressions in some scenes (Schroeder for one, or Glee Club Rehearsal) were priceless and he has a great voice.
The set was simple, yet clever and I loved it! I really liked how the kite flying is done and the way they just transform the doghouse in a blackboard, aeroplane etc. Schroeder’s piano is wonderful too. The same can be said for the choreography, especially the ensemble numbers. They were a joy to watch, there even is a tap number!
My only (minor) quibble is, as so often, the sound. They don’t use microphones and I thought that (mostly) the drums were too loud and drowned out some of the singing. I found it especially difficult to hear Lewis Barnshaw and Mark Anderson, but it improved a bit towards the end. It is a real shame though, because they both give such excellent performances.
Musically, I wouldn’t exactly call it a masterpiece, but it fits the story and the characters perfectly, which is the only thing that matters to me. The songs are quite catchy though and I am sure I won’t get them out of my head for at least a couple of days. The only song I was familiar with beforehand is the last song, Happiness, which makes a quite moving conclusion. As much as I dislike the idea that everything must have a deep, meaningful and hidden message, I think this musical does with this song.
To sum up: entertaining, incredibly talented cast, nice story and songs, great choreography, what more could you possibly ask for?! It runs until the 30th October and you can book tickets online or call 0208 995 6035.
If happiness is anyone and anything at all that’s loved by you (to quote the last song), this production of You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown IS happiness! It definitely made me happy.
Please note that I attended the second (and last) preview, so there still might be some changes!