You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown

October 9, 2021 | By | Reply More

★★★☆☆      Surprisingly deep

Assembly Roxy: Wed 6 – Sun 10 Oct 2021
Review by Thom Dibdin

There’s an unexpected and more than welcome depth to the hearty production of You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown staged by Happy Sad Productions at the Assembly Roxy Upstairs until Sunday.

The young amateur company is taking on the late 1990s revamp, complete with new dialogue by Michael Mayer and songs by Andrew Lippa, rather than the Clark Gesner’s 1967 original, but have thankfully kept away from the dead end of trying to be more complex than the evergreen original cartoons.

Ryan Simpson, Heather Richardson, Niall Bayne, Steven McFeat, Dana Rose Sweeny, Ruth Harris, Dominic Myers and Lorna Murray. Pic: Happy Sad

Director Roza Stevenson keeps it admirably simple. Which allows her cast to focus on the task of giving flesh and bones to Charles M Schultz’s Peanuts characters. And they do so with a vitality and, thanks to Mairi Cross’s costumes, real veracity.

Most of the gang is here. Charlie Brown and his irritating sister Sally; clever, blanket-sucking Linus Van Pelt, his big sister Lucy and her piano-playing beaux, Schroeder; and – of course – Snoopy. Although Woodstock only intermittently and tangentially flies into focus in form of various birds and is never named.

When it comes to bringing the characters into focus, the whole company seem to embody their requisite characteristics of these six year-olds who reflect something much deeper than their ages. Even swings Lorna Murray and Ryan Simpson do so in their parts in the chorus.

a ball of fury

Steven McFeat is superbly fatalistic – verging on nihilistic – as Charlie Brown. As the butt of so many gags and jokes he gets the all-important smooth exterior and inner turmoil. The diminutive Heather Richardson is a ball of fury and desperation as Sally – her response to getting a D for her art project is quite the thing.

Dana Rose Sweeny gets both the grumpy and pathetic sides to Lucy as being Charlie’s arch interrogator and her brother’s nemesis, while failing to see Schroeder’s disdain for her. The latter is plain for all to see in Niall Bayne’s Schroeder who wanders on and off – only really coming to life for Beethoven Day.

Dana Rose Sweeny and Niall Bayne. Pic: Happy Sad

Dominic Myers could afford to be more expansive as Linus – but is spot on when it comes to the minutiae of the character and has a great voice. Ruth Harris is as expansive as you could wish for as Snoopy and is quite equal to his legendary lethargy, but is slightly underpowered when it come to musical chops.

Musically, this is very much of hit-out-and-hope variety of performance. While not every note is hit perfectly in tune – they are all hit with the requisite character. There is energy here and the belief that it is going to work which, by and large, ensures that it does.

The Peanuts cartoons have the reputation of being timeless works – giving relevance when ever you look at them. And that is the hidden beauty of this production.

general existential nausea

As we come out lockdown and come to understand the worst ravages of Covid on our mental health, the production reflects the nihilism, feelings of lack of worth and general existential nausea of both the cartoons and what we, as a society are coming to terms with.

And just as Schultz’s genius was to provide a philosophical exploration of contemporary life in a four frame line cartoon, so Happy Sad’s production explores our contemporary lives in a series of simple musical sketches.

Running time: one hour and 55 mins (including one interval)
Assembly Roxy 2 Roxburgh Place, EH8 9SU.
Wed 6 – Sun 10 Oct 2021
Evening: 7.30pm; Mats Sat/Sun: 2pm
Ticket and details: Book here.

ENDS

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Your comments