Charlie Brown, Schroeder, Linus, Lucy and Patty lead us through a day in the life of Charlie Brown. All the dialogue comes from the classic Charles Schultz comic strip of "Peanuts". The musical contains an ironic score masquerading as innocence and childhood wonder. Like the Comic Strip, the audience can take the work two ways: one as a story of sweet happy little engines of good feeling, constantly striving for a better day — even when one doesn't come. Or one can look deeper and find the force that has driven the comic strip into the realm of human commentary.
The musical reflects Schultz's extremely personal work. It feels, at all times, as if you're looking directly into Schulz's soul to survey his values and cares. There are hints of gentle folksiness throughout that make the more depressing stuff bearable — but it's the underlying utter despair of Charlie Brown - who's "Good Old Charlie Brown" in person, but is often 'hated' by the rest of the crew.
Charlie Brown's friends either seem to despise him or ignore him. He loses, constantly. He doesn't get anything he wants. He is defeated by his own failures (as in how he can't simply go over and talk to the Little Red-Haired Girl, his longtime crush) but also by his friends (as when he can't kick the football Lucy holds), and by the universe conspiring against him (as when trees devour his kites).
Nobody in Peanuts ever gets what they really want. They are defeated by delusions of grandeur (see: would-be classical pianist Schroeder, who tootles away on a toy pian - caring more about his 'art' than Lucy, the little girl who loves him), or their own harsh natures (see: Lucy, whose certainty about how the world should run is always undercut by reality). Even Snoopy longs to be a World War I flying ace, but has only a doghouse and the power of his imagination.
It's this adherence to human nature and the human comedy that makes the musical so bracing.
The show is funny, sentimental and thoughtful - representing the Peanuts comic strip as one of the great works of 20th century literature.