Sunday, October 12, 2014

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown - Based on the Comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz – Book, Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lipps

Holland Noel

(Charlie Brown sat in a director’s chair in A Charlie Brown Christmas.  I will do the same here, as a particular character, a reviewer.)

The actors were great, all had powerful voices, the characterizations were spot on, and the musical numbers were fantastic.

But I sat there, in the chair, in the empty theatre, feeling empty. I know, I shouldn’t feel like that, but I did.  Empty.

I had trouble sitting quietly, during the performance, a few feet away, as a former director, feeling a little helpless. But didn’t anyone get the visual cues from me?  The fact that I was writing feverishly in the front row, taking notes, didn’t resonate with the actors playing the characters on stage.  

That the actors should have been more stage left? Rather than stage right? Downstage, when matters were best settled upstage?   That the kite would have been better blue, than red? 

Didn’t anyone see how alone I felt?  Wasn’t pulling my hair out enough of a visual cue?  Was I the only one seeing it the way it should have been?

Why, in a world of incredible actors, was I the only one feeling that it needed focus? 

(And one last thing, I don’t identify with Charlie Brown, I don’t.  I said it and I’m not ashamed.) - Narrator

I’ve heard about You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown The Musical over the years from people who made polite remarks about the show and never saying a bad thing about it.

“Snoopy was great!”

“You have to go for Snoopy alone.”

“And the best part was Snoopy! “

“Snoopy cracked me up!”

“Snoopy is as funny as all get out.”

Snoopy was probably the best thing about the cartoons I saw on TV growing up and watched during the holiday seasons, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. 

As a child, I poured over Peanuts comic books, and the daily comic strips. I noticed that in the earlier version of the comic strip the characters were badly drawn. There wasn’t a lot of character development in those cells but they were funny.     

And in all these years, I had never seen the musical about Charlie Brown and wasn’t it about time I got over to the theatre to see it?   For gosh sakes!

Later, after seeing it, my daughter asked me if kids or adults played the characters. 

“Adults.  Why?” 

“Why?  Cause it’s better with kids.” 

Kids know everything and I see her point.  The kids in the comic strip are speaking and acting like adults, even Snoopy, which, makes it comical.   But in this case it was the adults acting as kids, acting like adults.

Sustaining Sound Theatre Company and Chromolume Theatre present You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Revised 1999) based on the comic strip, Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz, Book, Music and Lyrics by Clark Gesner, additional dialogue by Michael Mayer and additional Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa through November 2, 2014.   

The cast of characters were there: Charlie (Holland Noel), Lucy (Dorothy Blue), Sally (Kristin Towers-Rowles), Linus (Richie Ferris), Schroeder (John Deveraux), and Snoopy (Matt Steele).  All were superior in voice and skills.  

The great musical numbers in this show are Choreographed by Samantha Whidbey.  The Kite by Charlie Brown was one of my favorites because there is so much emotional life in that song.  Rabbit Chasing with Sally and Snoopy, and My New Philosophy with Sally and Schroeder. The Doctor Is In with Lucy and Charlie gives us the true sense of what Charlie Brown and Lucy are all about.

This production is a scaled down version of the show, in a very small intimate theatre, and one that is good for kids as well as adults, but in truth, this is a grand experience for young adults.  

This particular version of the show directed by Cate Caplin came off, not as a comic strip with songs but rather, as vignettes (in the same vein of “Laugh In” for those who remember back in the day). Actors would come in, say their piece, or sing a song, and then leave.  Continuity, or a strong through line, was difficult to discern during the course of this show. 

We have come to know the relationships between characters over the years and those relationships could have been better, and strongly defined.  This is a call for a minor adjustment for my own idiosyncratic reasons.  Learn the songs, the movements, remember and define the relationships, and how it all fits to arrive to the pièce de résistance.

L - R Front: Dorothy Blue, Kristin Towers-Rowles
Second Row: Richie Ferris, John Deveraux
Third Row:  Holland Noel, Matt Steele
Holland Noel, as Charlie Brown has a great presence on stage and some wonderful moments. But we never really get a sense that he’s a blockhead, whether he thinks that or the others do. Even in this musical, we need the sense that he has overcome his adversities in the end and is thought of as a good man, because that is what the show is about.  

Dorothy Blue is wonderful to watch as Lucy van Pelt, has a very nice voice, and I love the blue dress. Lucy is worldly; at least that’s what she thinks of her self. A little more development of that character trait and purpose would go a long way. She doesn’t want anyone smarter than she is and she will go out of her way to confuse people like her brother Linus in the song Little Know Facts.  Also Lucy has a crush on Schroeder but we don’t see that at all.

John Deveraux as Schroeder has an excellent voice and a marvelous way on stage. But there is more to be had in this character and his mannerisms as he moves about on stage. There must be a stronger relationship to Charlie Brown and also his muse, Lucy van Pelt, to give the character a little more humph. 

Richie Ferris plays Linus van Pelt.  This tall statuesque actor has a powerful voice and does well on stage. So tall that he whips his security blanket on to the lights high above him. In this musical review, Ferris should strengthen his relationship with Charlie Brown, his best friend, and Sally so that we know where he stands with both of those characters. And I always thought that Linus was the smartest one of the group, if so I did not see this in Ferris’ performance.

Matt Steele plays Snoopy and does so marvelously as he moans, slithers, slides, and dances all around the stage. And yes, “Snoopy cracked me up.”

Kristin Towers-Rowles plays Sally Brown and has a lovely voice.  Also, this Sally Brown is an interesting characterization of pushing her chest out, trying to find answers to her questions, and wondering why the world is conspiring against her.  (Art never deserves a “C”, from any teacher, any time.)  Finding ways to make Sally’s relationship with Linus stronger would be a good thing—she does love him and defining that physical relationship would add to an already remarkable performance.

Other members of the cast who serve as understudies that did not perform on stage the night I was there were Trevor Coran, Rachel Geis, Carly Linehan, Andreas Pantazis, and Michael Uribes

Robert Towers & Ryan Rowles produced the show.

Colorful Scenic Design was by Erik Austin.  The Lighting Designer was Will North Cleckler.

Costumes by Shon LeBlanc & Melissa Pritchell helped with the characterization and was nicely done.

I was particularly impressed by the sound coming from Charlie Brown’s empty mailbox, Sound Design by Kenny Leforte.

The Choreographer/Stage Manager was Samantha Whidby.

And making the songs sound so delightful was by Musical Director Jeff Bonhiver, who was also on the keyboard, while Tyler Smith played the drums.

Other members of the crew are as follows:

Publicity – Mike Abramson
House Manager – Elliott J. Lawrence
Co-Artistic Directors – Kristin Towers-Rowles & Rebekah Hellerman

Run!  And take some kids that love free expression and speak their minds.   

The Chromolume Theatre @ The Attic
5429 West Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90016
(Between Carmona Ave & Hauser Blvd.)

Reservations:  323-205-1617 or purchasing online.

“You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown” is presented through special arrangement with Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc., and proceeds from this production will be sent to Free Arts For Abused Children, a Los Angeles based non-profit organization whose mission is to provide healing and empowerment to victims of child abuse and neglect through creative and innovative arts programming. More information may be found at

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