Thursday, 23 June 2016

You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, June 21, 2016 ***1/2


Music, lyrics & book by Clark Gesner
Based on Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schultz
Produced by Aleksander Vass & Vass Productions
Alex Theatre, Fitzroy St., St. Kilda, until July 2, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in print in Herald Sun. (May not appear online in Arts Herald Sun.) KH

 Clockwise from L-Courtney Glass, Joshua Robson, Luigi Lucente, Cameron MacDonald, Adam Porter, Sarah Morrison
Charles M. Schultz’s whimsical and enduring comic strip, Peanuts, is lovingly recreated by live actors in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, Clark Gesner’s charming and entertaining American musical for the entire family.

Gary Abrahams’ production is swiftly paced and gleefully silly, with snappy choreography by Dana Jolly, slick musical direction by Ben Kiley, vivid costumes (Chloe Greeves) and it is performed on a cartoonish stage design (Jacob Battista).

Gesner’s episodic narrative echoes the structure of Schultz’s comic strips and the dialogue incorporates such timeless, Schultzian gems as the characters’ exasperated exclamations, “Aaaargh!” and “Good grief!”

The live songs, accompanied by a backing track, are perky, cheerful and eminently singable musical theatre tunes with witty lyrics that also pay tribute to Schultz.

Cameron MacDonald is perfectly cast as the hapless, Charlie Brown, playing him as perpetually bewildered with a downward-tilted mouth and drooping shoulders that embody Charlie’s melancholic attitude, heightened childhood anxiety and desperate need to be liked.

MacDonald’s voice has a bright timbre and warm tone and he expresses Charlie’s simple need to succeed in the kite-flying song, The Kite.

The title song provides a jaunty and animated opening chorus that introduces Charlie and all of his childhood pals, while the finale, Happiness, ends the show on a positive note after so much childhood angst, with Charlie and his friends celebrating things that make them happy.

A highlight is The Book Report, an ensemble number that depicts the children’s various struggles, joys and distractions as they each complete a book report on Peter Rabbit.

Luigi Lucente capers and sings as Snoopy, playfully giving this much-loved, doggy character a human personality as he does his funky dude dancing and dreams of being a World War One Flying Ace fighting the Red Baron from the comfort of the roof of his kennel.

Courtney Glass captures Lucy’s infamous crabby bossiness, vanity and bullying of Charlie Brown when singing The Doctor Is In, and Adam Porter is suitably philosophical, sensitive and intellectually superior as her little brother, Linus, who rejoices in his baby blanket in My Blanket and Me.

Joshua Robson revels in Schroeder’s Beethoven obsession while Sarah Morrison portrays Charlie’s sister, Sally’s childish imagination and her resentment about getting a D for her schoolwork.

This production is a diverting and authentic homage to Schultz’s genius and it elicits shrieks of laughter from the kids and is a hoot for those adults who are nostalgic about Peanuts.

Buy Kate Herbert

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