By Sophia Monastra
Two or three years ago, my sister developed an addiction to “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” This wasn’t surprising, seeing as how she loves all things Peanuts, but her addiction led to me listening to the soundtrack on repeat for several months on end, memorizing almost all of the lyrics to every song and even landing a role as Snoopy for a musical compilation. Despite this inundation in the musical, it remains one of my all-time favorites.
So, it was with high expectations, a load of nostalgia and a touch of fear that I sat down for the opening performance of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
The musical is highly episodic, with several unconnected scenes. For some, this may be off-putting, however, I found it faithful to the short, four-panel comic strips of Peanuts. Not only does the disconnected format honor the source material, but it also makes rehearsing the musical easier, according to Professor Stacey Stratton, the play’s director.
“Because we could rehearse bits and pieces, it allowed us to cover more ground faster.” While musicals tend to take longer to rehearse, each scene could stand on its own. Rehearsing “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “felt like a smattering of different things…the pieces came together to form a big picture.”
The musical draws heavily from animated Peanuts specials, such as “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.” This means that the staging, the blocking and the movement of each actor is stylized and exaggerated. The actors drew inspiration from the movement of young children and choreography from the animated Peanuts specials.
The motion isn’t the only thing exaggerated–the characters are too. For people already familiar with Charles Schulz’s work, they’ll be pleased to find that the characters translate well into the musical medium. Snoopy steals the show, Lucy is the boss, Linus is a blanket-toting philosopher, Schroder is obsessed with Beethoven and Charlie Brown is a depressed failure. The characters are caricatures for good reason: Schultz based them off of different aspects of his life, with each character representing a side of Schultz’s own personality.
It’s this personal touch that makes the musical so applicable. As a child at heart, I was able to identify with the problems the characters faced, such as dealing with unrequited love and getting a kite in the air. The musical combines childhood wonder with adult nostalgia, and when I left the theater on opening night, I did so happy and appreciative about all of life.
On the surface, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” seems like a simple, silly kids’ musical. But it’s also more than that. “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” explores what happiness truly means. From the first chords to the final bows, the musical emphasizes that happiness is found in little things, like learning to whistle, sharing a secret, two kinds of ice cream and “anything and anyone that’s loved by you.”
In all, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” is “a sweet tale of unconditional love found through friendship, and how personality differences don’t have to cost you relationships.” Professor Stratton said. “The best thing about Peanuts is that it teaches us to be kind to each other and to live better both as individuals and in community.”
Sophia Monastra is a sophomore Professional Writing and Information Design major and writer for Cedars’ A&E who enjoys reading and writing comics. She will forever be mad she can’t use the serial comma in Cedars.
Images courtesy of Scott Huck.