You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown
Launceston Musical Society
Earl Arts Centre
March 1st, 2022
From 1950 to 2000, 17,897 “Peanuts” comic strips were written and published by creator Charles M. Schulz which assured its status as one of the longest running and most influential comic strips of all time. Consequently, people of any generation would find it difficult to not recognise these beloved and iconic characters, whether they grew up with the comics, or they happened to stumble across a Snoopy toy in their parents or grandparents’ nostalgia collection. This universality benefits the Launceston Musical Society’s production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, enabling an appeal to a wide demographic with the allure of nostalgia and relatability.
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, was written and first performed almost 60 years ago, developed as a concept album about the “Peanuts” characters. When first performed, this revue style show framed each song with a series of vignettes depicting iconic moments from the beloved comic strip. When revived in 1998, additional dialogue and songs were included to the libretto, maintaining the “revue” treatment, which unfortunately, dates the show. While the story still has relatability, the “revue” style has regrettably lost its appeal for a younger mainstream audience. This lost art form is boldly attempted to be reborn here with middling results.
Director Troy Ridgway has appropriately handled the minimal allowances at his disposal, steering a small six-person ensemble; effecting succinct and recognisable versions of the cartoonish characters we remember from Charlie and the Gang. Despite this, I think Ridgway would have benefited with help of a choreographer; (Ridgway performed both duties), to simplify and define his role as the director, to facilitate compelling stage dynamic and boost the energy of the piece. As a “Revue” the show demands a frenetic pace and regrettably it appeared the cast struggled to maintain the comic intensity, especially as frequent blackouts continued to halt their progress.
Fortuitously, we are blessed with a star-studded ensemble cast, featuring Launceston performing royalty, Jade Howard, in the iconic and hilarious role of Snoopy. Her spirit and toughness as the quintessential companion of Charlie Brown was generously laden with her recognizable swagger, charisma, and panache. Her significantly stand out number, Suppertime, is realized with her traditional spunk, showcasing her dynamic vocals in all their glory.
Nikia Breen, another of Launceston’s well established and reliable performers, executed Charlie Brown’s little sister Sally, with the perfect caricatured cartoon ferocity required for the show. From her aggressively exaggerated stomping across stage, to consistently animated facial expressions, she bought into the cartoonish impulses this show required, and delivered her clearly experienced performer professionalism. Her vocal delivery dynamic during speech and her “silly ditty” My New Philosophy, helped encourage the rest of the ensemble to embrace their cartoonish impulses.
Thomas Cross as Schroeder had arguably the most enjoyable song in the show, Beethoven Day, where his rock-tinged vocals shone through, and his awkward charm brought Schroeder’s frustration to life hilariously.
The minimal set supported the comic strip aesthetic of the show, with Snoopy’s iconic red kennel making an appearance, plus the oversized mailbox and floating clouds (expertly guided by the stage crew) made for delightful little sight gags. I personally think the scrim hiding the band at the back, could have been utilised more, for when the lights didn’t illuminate it, it was a dour backdrop that diminished the cartoon aesthetic.
A special mention must go to Catherine Kroon for her proficiency in Beethoven (Poor old Schroeder would be nowhere without her) and the section of the band that brought the Kazoo back to musical theatre.
While You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’s appeal may have dampened with the current generation, this show is a charming walk down memory lane, that even those without knowledge of the series will still get a laugh out of watching. Make your way to the Earl Arts Centre and support the Launceston Musical Society in what is their first show since 2019.
Review by Matt Taylor