BWW Review: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SNOOPY - A Dazzling Debut
Texas State University Musical Theatre Department has long been an exemplary program, but with the debut of THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SNOOPY, they move into the realm of the best professional companies around.
The show is a revision of SNOOPY: THE MUSICAL, that was premiered in 1975, with music by Larry Grossman, lyrics by Hal Hackady and book by, Charles Schulz Creative Associates, Warren Lockhart, Arthur Whitelaw and Michael Grace as a sequel to YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIEu BROWN. Unfortunately the second show didn't quite catch on and though it's gone through several revivals, it has never captured the popularity of its predecessor. The renamed revision, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SNOOPY is here to change all that. With new orchestrations, some new lyrics, a revised book and Broadway calibre choreography, this version is certainly hit material. Fans of the Peanuts gang will find a lot to love in this affectionately drawn show and newcomers will be enchanted.
I was able to attend a preview of the show on Sunday before it's Valentine's Day opening and I loved every moment. I've been a Peanuts fan since I received a copy of Happiness is a Warm Puppy for Christmas in 1963. It was my first real book and I loved it so much that I passed it down to my daughter who has it on her bookshelf all these years later. I never missed reading Peanuts comic strip in the newspaper every day until Schultz' death in 2000. The characters were me, they reflected the complexity of childhood's journey into the adult world. There's a little Charlie Brown (Grayson Samuels), Linus (Ty Hunter Taylor), Lucy (Maggie Bera), Sally (Raegan Roberts), Peppermint Pattiy (Adria Swan) and Woodstock (Nick Eibler) in all of us, but who do we all hope to be? Snoopy. He's Joe Cool, he's a novelist, he fights the Red Baron in his Sopwith Camel/doghouse, he's the Easter Beagle. Snoopy (Ryne Nardecchia) is simply the best. In this new revision, Woodstock is used to string the scenes together with his fluttering dance and comic acrobatics in a way that makes the transitions look seamless and effortless. This production is not merely sweet and nostalgic, it gets to the very heart of the characters in a way that made me grin for hours afterwards. The new song for Sally, with lyrics by Andrew Lippa, Husband Material, brings in the age of smartphones hilariously and gives Charlie Brown's little sister a new voice. Some rearrangement to the order of the numbers has been made also, Friends, added during the West End revival has been moved to the top of Act II instead of Snoopy's The Great Writer. In total, three songs that were in the original, are gone and one song has been added.
Director and co-author of the new book, along with Adam Cates and Larry Grossman, Kaitlin Hopkins has assembled the best in the business and presents it as a sparkling jewel that dazzles the eye and warms the heart. The cast is quite simply stellar, every characterization is on point, every note is perfect and their dancing, flawless. As Snoopy Nardecchia is all charm and attitude, his song, Daisy Hill, is an absolute hoot. Grayson Samuels as Charlie Brown epitomizes the lovable loser in every way, his sad sack expression is priceless. Though he never utters a single word, nor sings a note, Nick Eibler as Woodstock clearly communicates through his seemingly aimless flight, the sweet heart of the hapless yellow bird that joined the Peanuts gang in 1967, though he went unnamed until 1970. Lucy Van Pelt is a difficult character to play, Maggie Bera strikes the perfect balance of sarcasm, selfishness and underlying heart to find the true nature of the character. Raegan Roberts' Sally is delightful with her demanding, empty headed wisdom. Peppermint Patty is often considered a side character, but Adria Swan brings gives her tomboyishness a wistful quality that is endearing. My particular favorite among this talented cast was Ty Hunter Taylor as Linus. I've always felt a kinship with the slightly neurotic, blanket wielding, often profound bookworm. Taylor is magnetic on stage and magical in the role. The choreography by Adam Cates is world class, his ability to make the cast move as one and yet maintain their individuality is heavenly. The tap number for Dime A Dozen is one highlight among so many in the show. The set designed by Michelle Ney is exceptional in concept and execution. The use of modular blocks and changing colors reminds us that for Peanuts, life began as a comic strip that was bordered with black outlines. Using projections for several scenes was just right, never being busy nor too distracting. Costumes designed by Sally Rath are beautiful in their simplicity and adherence to the original comic strip in look without being copies. Ethan Jones' lighting design is outstanding, evoking seasonal changes with subtlety and finesse. The entire design team should be commended for their use of color, it draws the eye and reminds us of the bright hues of the funny papers. Kaitlin Hopkins direction is superb, she brings every element together to create a dazzling, heartfelt and enchanting evening at the theatre for the entire family.
I give my highest recommendation to THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SNOOPY for a flawless production that will stay with you long after you head home. Everyone of any age will enjoy the Peanuts gang brought to life in such a charming way.
Photo credit Kathy Houle
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SNOOPY
A revised version of the musical SNOOPY!!!
Based on the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz
Music by Larry Grossman
Lyrics by Hal Hackady
Lyrics for Husband Material by Andrew Lippa
Book by Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, Warren Lockhart, Arthur Whitelaw and Michael L. Grace
Directed by Kaitlin Hopkins
Choreographed by Adam Cates
Musical Direction/Orchestrations by Greg Bolin
Texas State University in association with Theatre Under The Stars/Humphreys School of Musical Theatre
Patti Strickel Harrison Theatre
405 Moon Street, San Marcos, TX 78666
February 14 - 18 @ 7:30 PM
February 18 - 19 @ 2:00 PM
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with one 15 minute intermission
Tickets: $15 - $8, txstatepresents.com