by Sandi Durell
The beloved Peanuts cartoon characters are once again alive and offering up their pearls of wisdom, in the form of a cast of professional kids, on the stage of the York Theatre Company, busily plying their universal antics.
Former productions, specifically the 1999 Broadway revival featuring Anthony Rapp as Charlie Brown, won Tony Awards for Kristin Chenoweth (as Sally – “My New Philosphy”) and Roger Bart (as Snoopy – “Suppertime”).
Based on Charles M. Schulz’ comic strip, created by Clark Gesner (book, music, lyrics) with additional dialogue by Michael Mayer and additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, seeing an all-kid cast puts a different spin on this. The clarity of kids’ speaking/singing voices can be high pitched and screaming, at times, to an adult ear so listen up with care.
Be that as it may, these kids are all A+ talent as young Joshua Colley (Les Miserables) as Charlie Brown (whose voice is teetering on the edge of adulthood) is typically confused and uncertain; loved by many, yet ostracized by all – a loser determined to find the courage to have that Little Red Haired girl notice him if only he could garner the courage. He just wants to be a good person. Sally, his sister, played by Milly Shapiro (Matilda the Musical), is often making a fuss, while brash, confident Lucy (Mavis Simpson-Ernst – Evita) decides she wants to be Queen while making innuendos about being married to Schroeder (Gregory Diaz – Broadway at the White House/School of Rock) who stays aloof. Sweet little Linus Jeremy T. Villas- Kinky Boots) schleps his blanket around, sucking his thumb, fantasizing everyone with blankets in “My Blanket and Me.”
The most endearing of them all is Charlie’s adorable and loving dog Snoopy (Aidan Gemme – Finding Neverland) atop his doghouse, happily relaxing and daydreaming about being a pilot searching for “The Red Baron.”
Things really pick up in Act II with Sally and Schroeder’s “My New Philosophy,” and the company Little League baseball championship as Charlie strikes out, expressing his unhappiness in “T-E-A-M (The Baseball Game). When Snoopy complains about not being fed, things get dramatic in “Suppertime.” But the always piece de resistance is when Charlie Brown realizes he is a good man, trying his best to make the most of life – “Happiness.”
Directed by Michael Unger, with music direction by Eric Svejcar and choreographed by Jennifer Paulson Lee, this Charlie Brown should have great appeal to the small set who will discover or rediscover simple life lessons and the wonders of Peanuts characters. The nostalgia aspect for the grown-ups is a definite feel-good.
You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown runs thru June 26 – York Theatre Company at St. Peter’s (619 Lexington Ave./54th St) NYC www.yorktheatre.org 212 935-5820 running time 2 hrs. 15 min. with intermission
Photos: Carol Rosegg