FROM DOWN UNDER: You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

In Australia, International, Musicals, Opinion, Reviews by Simon ParrisLeave a Comment

You’re a good show, Charlie Brown
You’re the kind of production we need
You have ability, top quality, and a type of value that is very rare indeed.

This pristine production of Broadway musical You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown is perfect school holiday entertainment, but why should the kids have all the fun? Sensational cast, crisp direction, energetic choreography and gorgeous design blend together for a wonderful evening’s (or matinee’s) entertainment.

Based, of course, on Charles Schulz’s comic strip PEANUTS, Clark Gesner’s 1967 off-Broadway musical was significantly revised and updated some 30 years later for Broadway. If certain sweet music theatre numbers are known as charm songs, this is an entire charm musical. A seemingly spontaneous series of scenes and songs gently drifts along in just the way a young child’s day must unfold. The truth in the characters adds depth to the warm and fuzzy retro vibe.

The winning design is the surely the best that has been seen at the Alex Theatre to date. Set designer Jacob Battista covers the absence of wing space by embedding featured props within the set. Two wooden frames house a mind-boggling number of pull down blinds to create backgrounds. The entire setting is framed by a comic strip panel running right around the proscenium arch; it even has Schulz’s signature in the bottom corner. (note: these rehearsal photos do not show the scenic design)

There has clearly been a high level of collaboration between Battista and costume designer Chloe Greeves. From the clouds down to the sneakers, every element has the same cute hand-sketched look. Greeves’ painted costumes are beautifully realised, especially Lucy and Sally’s glossy, perky frocks. Wigs, by Tom Lee, provide the perfect finishing touch for the girls.

Director Gary Abrahams has each of the six performers working at the same buoyant level. The evident delight the actors derive from the material is infectious, providing another layer of enjoyment to the audience. The show fairly zips along, with each new scene or sketch making sense because the commitment and focus of the actors shows that the events make such clear and important sense to the characters.

Dana Jolly’s choreography matches the spontaneous feel of the show, giving a natural outlet of joyful expression to the characters. Musical director Ben Kiley has drilled the cast so that they can perform to the pre-recorded musical tracks without a conductor. Each of the six triple threat performers acts with abundant flair, sings their role with ease and dances with deft, characterful style. Cameron MacDonald adopts an adorably tense posture as easily flummoxed good man Charlie Brown.

Luigi Lucente is loveable as wise beagle Snoopy, bringing down the house with dazzling solo showstopper “Suppertime.” Visiting from Sydney, Courtney Glass is a terrific find as Lucy, her delicious range of expressions making the disagreeable character sneakily likeable. Sarah Morrison is wonderfully animated as sweet young Sally, delivering her petulant anthem “My New Philosophy” with nicely understated humour. Joshua Robson captures the weary frustration of Beethoven-loving Schroeder, and displays a particularly lovely singing voice

Adam Porter neatly balances the childish and philosophical sides of Linus, scoring an early highlight with “My Blanket and Me.”

You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown is highly recommended for children of all ages.

You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown plays at Alex Theatre, Melbourne until 2 July 2016.

Photos: supplied

 

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Simon Parris
Simon is a Melbourne-based theatregoer and critic, who reviewed for many years for Theatre People and the Sunday Herald Sun. He has also acted, directed and choreographed, and has served on the boards of the Music Theatre Guild of Victoria Committee and The Opera Studio Melbourne. In addition to productions in Melbourne, on his extensive travels, Simon reviews shows in Sydney and on annual trips to Broadway and the West End. He now blogs independently at simonparrismaninchair.com.
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Simon Parris on RssSimon Parris on Twitter
Simon Parris
Simon is a Melbourne-based theatregoer and critic, who reviewed for many years for Theatre People and the Sunday Herald Sun. He has also acted, directed and choreographed, and has served on the boards of the Music Theatre Guild of Victoria Committee and The Opera Studio Melbourne. In addition to productions in Melbourne, on his extensive travels, Simon reviews shows in Sydney and on annual trips to Broadway and the West End. He now blogs independently at simonparrismaninchair.com.

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