Archness Alert: If you love the comic strip “Peanuts: and agree with this show’s program-book writers that it is art to be likened to Dickens, Balzac and Chaplin, this is the musical show for you. If, however, you’re not a fan of cutesy, repetitive comic-pages cartoon stories – like “Cathy,” “Beetle Bailey,” or in this case, “Peanuts,” you may find this simple re-enactment of the strip the equivalent of a ride on a small tricycle when you’ve paid for a limousine.
Stratford’s staging is impeccable and splendidly cast. Director/choreographer Donna Feore makes it play like a dream-party with masterful entertainment. But I guess I’m too old and diabetic to be fed cotton candy. “Pogo,” “Doonesbury,” si; but this is just the cartoon’s same old bland routines played out.
Feore’s movement and dance are bright and inventive. Costuming is much like the comic strip’s, but Michael Gianfresco’s scenery has flights of elaborate fancy, and Kimberly Purtell’s lighting is more applause-worthy than the script. The action is just Charlie Brown striking out or Snoopy’s hanging over the roof of the doghouse or pretending to be a World War I flying ace with little interesting variation from the many times we’ve seen those moments in Peanuts.
Here comes a big “However,” however. There are some okay songs and some dances that display more tricky comic movement than the funny papers ever show. Andrew Broderick plays a bright, quirky Schroeder and Kevin Yee a likable singing and dancing Linus, and Erica Peck manages some appealing comic delivery for the crabby Lucy. Amy Wallis’ Sally is barely believable as a little girl, but she has a gorgeous singing voice. Ken James Stewart has a winsome, friendly innocence as the put-upon Charlie Brown, and he sings the role well enough to win applause. But Stephen Patterson’s Snoopy runs away with the show. The role is written to be offbeat and scene-stealing, but it’s his performing, not the material that stops the show. Patterson moves like an acrobatic dancer and sings really impressively with a rich voice that must have at least three strong octaves.
So, if it isn’t a wonderful musical, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown is produced and performed well enough at Stratford to be a solidly entertaining revue.