I should start off this review of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown at Playhouse on Park with an admission of my tricky relationship with the characters from Peanuts. On the one hand, I think A Charlie Brown Christmas is the second best Christmas show ever (sorry, nothing can top Greer Garson's narration of The Little Drummer Boy), and I remember, when I was about twelve-years-old, buying The Gospel According to Peanuts from the Walden Books in Beechmont Mall. (I'm bummed that I don't have that copy anymore.) On the other hand, I despise (and find rather creepy) the Hartford Courant's decision to run old Peanuts strips daily in the comics section; Schulz is dead, after all, and so his comics should not continue to run as if he's not. Calvin and Hobbes are alive in plenty of anthologies; Charlie et alia should only be there too.
I say all of this to make clear I'm neither a Charlie Brown lover nor hater.
And so it is with YAGMCB; while I'm not terribly fond of the show as written (see below), I liked this production A LOT: Lindsay Adkins' Lucy is remarkable; her self-revelatory moment of crabbiness is the laugh-out-loud funniest thing I've seen on stage in a long time! Hillary Ekwall, as Sally, has never been better. And, boy, can Joseph Fierberg's Snoopy dance! In fact, the entire cast (including Steven Mooney as Charlie Brown, Kevin Barlowski as Linus, and Dante Jeanfelix as Schroeder) is never less than engaging and is more than worth the time and energy to go and watch them bring these characters to life. (The show closes this Sunday; so hurry up.)
Sean Harris's direction is crisp, effecting, and effective in conjuring up the iconic characters, and the orchestra, under the direction of Emmett Drake, is equally good, but, in my opinion, just too loud, at times, for the space.
Any real criticisms I have is of the show itself. I know it is a perennial favorite among theatre groups (although this is my first time seeing a production of it), but, like the comic strip upon which is is based, the little vignettes that essentially comprise the script, while very nicely done by this talented ensemble, are never really that funny or witty or moving. (Although, given the recent hullabaloo over the marriage of Kate and Wills, I had to laugh when Lucy complained that her not being able to be queen even though she really wanted to be one was unfair and "undemocratic"!) And the songs, once again very well sung by this cast, are not really that memorable....although my two theatrically-inclined daughters (15- and 12-years-old, respectively) heartily disagree.
In short, I really like this cast and everything about the production, even if I'm unsure why the play itself continues to be so popular. But please keep in mind that I'm often told I'm out-of-touch in my taste in musicals.
The talents of the cast and crew are undeniable, so don't find yourself saying on Sunday evening "Good Grief, I missed that show!"