BWW Reviews: Wimberley Players Presents Charming, Professional YOU'RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN
In the final number of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, the world's favorite blockhead and his iconic pals reflect on what happiness is. In a moment that mixes existential philosophy and childlike curiosity in a way that only Charles Schultz can do, the Peanuts gang determines that happiness is as simple as finding a pencil or three kinds of ice cream.
I'd argue that an easygoing musical like You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown should be added to the list of synonyms for happiness. If this show doesn't make you happy, then something's clearly wrong with you.
The 1967 musical-with a book, music, and lyrics by Clark Gesner, additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, and additional dialogue by Michael Mayer-is as simple and effortless as they come. Like Schultz's beloved comic strip, the musical is comprised of vignettes in the lives of the Peanuts characters. The trademark wit, humor, and honesty of Charles Schultz and his characters shine through the material, and much of the dialogue even comes directly from his comic strips.
Director/Choreographer Jim Lindsay is perfectly paired with the show. The show is quick-paced and high-energy without becoming spastic or frantic, and Lindsay's choreography features some clever nods to the beloved Peanuts style dancing. But most importantly, Lindsay seems to understand Schultz's tone and voice. That reverence to Schultz is shown in every moment and every element of this brilliant production, particularly in Carroll Dolezal's brightly colored, cartoony set and Pennye Graves's hysterically oversized props.
Lindsay's cast is just as loveable as the Peanuts characters themselves. Ensemble players Kate Clark and Lindsay Katherine Powell are both loads of fun to watch, particularly in the dance numbers. Ryley Wilson is well suited for Charlie Brown. We constantly root for him as he oscillates from wide smile to defeated pout, and Wilson easily personifies America's favorite everyman. As Sally, Charlie Brown's kid sister, Rachel Hoovler is absolutely adorable and just the right amount of ditsy. BranDon Meyers is just as likeable as the blanket-carrying, thumb-sucking Linus, and his comedic timing is spectacular to watch. As Schroeder, James C. Springer brings down the house with his big number, the gospel-inspired "Beethoven Day." He has what is possibly the best voice of the cast, and considering the vocal talents of those around him, that's saying something.
But of the spectacular cast, there are two who truly have the audience eating out of the palms of their hands. As Snoopy, Kirk Kelso is a laugh riot. Anyone who's seen Kelso on stage before knows that he has a gift for comedy, and Snoopy is the perfect fit for him. His monologue about the evil Red Baron is laugh out-loud funny, and his big number, "Suppertime," is a showstopper. As Lucy, Kristi Brawner is just as much the crowd favorite. Like the rest of the cast, comedy comes naturally to Brawner, and while most people may immediately think of Lucy as bossy and mean, Brawner brings more to the table. Sure, the yelling and bossiness is there, but Brawner also throws a bit of vanity and girliness in there, too. This Lucy is just as prone tossing her hair with an "I'm so much better than you" look on her face as she is to tyrannical outbursts of anger and frustration. No matter what Brawner has her character do, it's musical comedy gold.
I'm assuming that before becoming a licensed kid therapist with her very own practice/cardboard box operation, Dr. Lucy Van Pelt must have taken the Hippocratic Oath. If there was such an oath for theater, it would be, "First, entertain." You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown does just that. It's not flashy or big or profound. Instead, it's wildly fun and entertaining. And that's what happiness is, right?