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BWW Review: YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN at Village Theatre

A sweet but dated show with a lack of confidence.

BWW Review: YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN at Village Theatre
Cast of Village Theatre's
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
Photo credit: Gabriel Corey

Dear Readers, if you're going to do a show, any show, you need to have confidence in what you're putting up on that stage. And while the current production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" at Village Theatre has a bunch of fun moments, the show as a whole seemed to lack the confidence to go for it, just like its title character.

Unless you're new to the world you're probably aware of the "Peanuts" gang from Charles M. Schulz. The comic strip that's been around since the 1950's and has spawned TV shows, movies, and yes, a couple of musicals, the main one being the one we're talking about. (The lesser known "Snoopy" isn't revived as much.). But Charlie Brown and the gang have survived the ages with their sweet, childlike outlook on the world around them. "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" with book, music and lyrics by Clark Gesner was originally done in 1967 with a well-received Broadway revival offered up in 1999 with some punched up dialog from Michael Mayer and new songs from Andrew Lippa. It's this newer version, which replaces the character of Patty with Charlie Brown's sister Sally, that Village has brought to life. But even this 1999 refreshed show can feel a little slow and dated in 2022.

The songs are fun and, really, the best parts of the show especially as music directed by the incredible R.J. Tancioco and his killer orchestra. But it's those interstitial scenes, culled directly from gags in the comic strip, that tend to kill the pace of the piece. They don't have to, but director Jimmy Shields gives a bit too much air in between the moments that I felt myself wishing they'd just get to the next song already. Moments that tended to drag on, like the "Rabbit Chase" that just felt like a lot of chaotic running about the stage with no plan.

Plus, there were so many missed opportunities and missteps that the show just didn't live up to it's potential. Snoopy being the victim of the most of it. His first big number leaves him on stage alone as he sings about birds attacking him. The birds were kind of there as little lights, but you have an entire ensemble you could have used. And then there was his climactic number "Suppertime" which should bring the house down. Instead, it's energy was sapped by some odd staging as actor Jason Weitkamp is forced to try and do a kick line of sorts while standing on top of the tiny doghouse. I'm sure he would have put more gusto into it were he not so tentative about his footing that high up, and I cannot blame him. But I can blame choreographer Cy Paolantonio who only had to look at the number to see it didn't work up there. Just bring the dog down and let him own the stage. And since this is one of the final numbers, that "end the show with a bang" feeling was severely curtailed.

The cast does have their moments. Weitkamp was fun as everyone's favorite beagle but, as I said, his two big moments were a bit robbed from him. Rafael Molina as the title blockhead himself has a great voice but fell into the trap of taking this downer of a kid too far at times. It's a fine line between adorably morose and "somebody get this kid some help!"

BWW Review: YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN at Village Theatre
Arika Matoba in Village Theatre's
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
Photo credit: Gabriel Corey

But it's those secondary kids that made up for any downfalls. Joell Weil as the future take no prisoners CEO, Lucy, managed to parlay her unearned confident swagger into a killer arc as she realizes people may not like her so much. Plus, she was hysterical to boot and her moments mooning over the artistic Schroeder were adorable. Speaking of Schroeder, Charles L. Simmons can sing anything he wants to, anytime, just let me listen. And he made the most of being one of the characters with one of the new songs, "Beethoven Day", by completely nailing it. The other recipient of the newer numbers, Arika Matoba as the precocious Sally, also took her number of "My New Philosophy" and ran off with it. I've seen her now in a few little kid roles, Little Sally in "Urinetown", Chip in "Beauty and the Beast", and now Sally and she seems to have a talent for taking these precious kiddies and giving them a delicious edge. And last but certainly not least, UJ Mangune as the erudite Linus brought oodles of heart to this brainiac with a blanket fetish, perfectly mixing the intellect of a Rhodes Scholar with the heart of a toddler.

The show has plenty going for it, but it failed to completely overcome its moments of apprehension or stale material. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Village Theatre's production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" a potential for so much more MEH+. Childlike wonder is one thing but let's combine it with good stagecraft.

"You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" performs at Village Theatre in Issaquah through May 22nd before moving to their Everett location, running May 27th through June 19th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.



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