You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown
Good Grief. For a night of no-frills, fun and delightful entertainment you couldn’t ask for two hours better than "You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown," which opened Friday night at Onstage in Bedford.
Long before Disney Broadway’ed "Beauty and The Beast" or "The Lion King," Charles Schulz’s beloved Peanuts cartoon characters were playing on and off Broadway. Opening in 1967 off-Broadway, "Charlie Brown" was a huge success playing for almost 1,600 performances before a brief transfer to Broadway.
In 1999, a re-vamped revival of "Charlie Brown" opened on Broadway. It featured an all-new and larger orchestration, bigger sets, several new songs and the addition of the character Sally (Charlie’s sister). The four-month, 1999 revival received four Tony nominations, won two and made Kristin Chenoweth a bonafide Broadway star (and Tony winner.)
Onstage in Bedford’s production is based on the 1999 revival. There is no linear plot. The setting is described as "A Day in the Life of Charlie Brown." The show is a series of vignettes, in no particular order. Some vignettes are only a few seconds long while others play out for minutes. Watching "Charlie Brown" is akin to sitting down with a stack of Sunday morning comics revolving around everyone’s lovable loser.
Lon Barrera takes a rare role behind the stage and directs "Charlie Brown" with enthusiasm and an obvious nostalgic affection. Alex Krus’ set is simple yet effective; large painted canvas’ with lots of blue skies and large marshmallowy clouds. All the familiar set pieces are present: Snoopy’s red doghouse, Lucy’s psychiatrist’s booth and even Charlie’s thinking wall. Music Director Kristin Spires maintains an appropriately light, silly tone that reminds us we’re watching cartoon characters.
Speaking of which, all the main Peanuts characters appear: Charlie Brown, Sally, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder and Snoopy. Barrera has assembled a fun cast and all the actors are good and goofy. Three performers stand out, although it’s difficult to overlook Kim Borge’s (Sally) big song "My New Philosophy."
It’s amazing to see handsome Derek C. Whitener transform himself into neurotic, nervous, worried Charlie Brown, complete with an, "I think I’m going to die" expression. But Whitener makes this Charlie Brown a winner.
Leah Clark’s crabbiness as Lucy is hilarious. Somebody call or email this reviewer whenever they see Clark’s name on a cast list; I want to see more. Finally, Zak Reynolds’s Snoopy is contagious whether Snoopy is chasing his nemesis the Red Baron, playing with Sally or breaking the fourth wall and telling the audience what he’s really thinking. Reynolds’ Snoopy is simply dressed in white with a black dog collar, and easily embodies the role of any gay man’s best friend. Woof!
"You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown" continues through September 2 at Onstage in Bedford, 2819 Road Hurt Parkway (off of Forest Ridge Road) in Bedford, TX. For info or tickets, call 817-354-6444 or visit www.onstageinbedford.com