Peanuts is a comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schultz and is the most popular and influential in the history of comic strips. Charlie Brown and Friends are at the centre of Peanuts and the comic has been adapted into animations and theatre. Stage West’s summer production is the musical You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, with book, music, and lyrics by Clark Gesner, additional dialogue by Michael Mayer, and additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa.
This musical is a series of vignettes. Much like the comic strip, there isn’t really an overarching theme, there isn’t a connective narrative, the songs are very much like reading the comic strip. It’s very much days in the life of Charlie Brown.
The music is upbeat and Jeremy LaPalme embodies the depressed and anxious Charlie. Sarah Gibbons is quite strong as Sally Brown and it’s lovely to see Jessica Jones with her powerful voice as Lucy. Jesse Weafer as Linus, Caulin Moore as Schroeder, and Jesse Drwiega as Snoopy fill out the rest of the cast. All the voices are really strong and the general feel from the cast is bang on.
All of the cast are great singers but there is a bit of energy missing from this production. Drwiega’s Supper Time is supposed to be a powerhouse number and it feels like it misses the mark a bit. You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown already doesn’t have a storyline that pulls through the entire production and the stories don’t have much emotional pull, so the songs have to blow the audience away. All the songs are well done but this musical is just not set up to be a winner.
This story might be lukewarm, but JP Thibodeau’s direction is anything but lacking. The show’s staging features Peanuts comic strips as projections and lighting design by Kris Mish highlights costuming by Leslie Robison-Greene. All these elements really give the musical its comic strip feel, like everything is two-dimensional instead of three.
Designers and artists on this production are thoughtful about making this production great, but You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown isn’t compelling enough to really be a hit.
Stage West’s production runs until September 3rd. More information is available online.
Photo Credit: John Watson