Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
Also see Susan's recap of the 2012 Helen Hayes Award Nominations
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown is a good first musical for parents wanting to introduce their children to the joys of people singing and dancing on a stage. (Personal note: the original Off-Broadway production was one of the first musicals I saw in New York.) Olney Theatre Center in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, has created an entertaining, tuneful production whose charms outweigh the rough edges.
Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, died in 2000, but his creationsCharlie Brown and Snoopy, Linus and Lucy, and many otherslive on through reprints of the original comic strips, animated television specials, and this musical, which originally opened Off-Broadway in 1967 and, with some revisions, had a Broadway run in 1999. The original creator, Clark Gesner (book, music and lyrics), highlighted each character in the framework of "an average day in the life of Charlie Brown," while playwright Michael Mayer and Andrew Lippa contributed new dialogue and two new songs respectively.
On Robert Andrew Kovach's comic-inspired scenic designtwo-dimensional, "hand-drawn" pieces of furniture framed by a proscenium and curtain displaying samples of Schulz's artdirector/choreographer Stephen Nachamie has assembled six performers who not only sing, dance and act, they can inhabit some of the most familiar characters in popular culture. The ones who earn the most attention for their exuberant performances are the women: Janine Sunday as Lucy Van Pelt and Jaimie Kelton as Sally Brown.
Sunday, a frequent Helen Hayes Award nominee, has the brassy voice and outsized personality for everybody's favorite "supercrab" and pre-teen psychiatrist. Kelton is a petite powerhouse who tears through her solo, "My New Philosophy," in the role that won Kristin Chenoweth a Tony Award.
As Snoopy (the other Tony-winning role), James Gardiner gets to do a little of everything. He goes rabbit hunting with Sally in an increasingly silly series of vignettes; fights the Red Baron while wearing an aviator's scarf that defies gravity; throws a tantrum in gibberish; and combines a variety of vocal stylesa little cabaret, some scat and gospelin his big number, "Suppertime."
Vishal Vaidya is a smooth Schroeder, who gets his own solo with the pulsing "Beethoven Day" and tries his best to stand up to Lucy; as Linus, Paul Wyatt gets to shine in "My Blanket and Me"; and Zack Colonna is a sweet-faced, kind-hearted Charlie Brown.
Olney Theatre Center