Reviewed by Tony Annicone
The current show at MMAS is the 1999 revival version of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” which is based on Charles Schultz’s beloved “Peanuts” comic strip. The revival opened on February 5. 1999 and made a star out of Kristen Chenoweth, winning her the Tony Award for best featured actress as Sally Brown. The show takes us through an average day in the life of Charlie Brown. The audience catches a glimpse of their favorite characters and includes many moments from all the days of his life from Valentine’s Day to baseball season, from wild optimism to utter despair. They include all his friends. both human and non-human and strung together on the string of a single day, from bright uncertain morning to hopeful starlit evening. Director/choreographer Adam Joy infuses the musical with high energy from start to finish with his talented cast while musical director Eli Bigelow not only conducts his five piece orchestra but plays keyboards and taught them this glorious music. They are rewarded with a resounding ovation at curtain call.
Adam blocks this show marvelously and uses his knowledge of this show to bring out the best in his performers. He adds in a five member chorus to enhance the musical numbers. This first hand knowledge comes from him playing Snoopy back in 2009 in Foxboro. Some of his comic dance numbers include the opening number, the blanket song and “Suppertime.” Eli makes them sound excellent in their songs especially “Beethoven Day”, “Book Report” and “Happiness.” Leading this cast is Greg Smith as Charlie Brown. He captures the expressions of this character wonderfully. He displays the various emotions of hurt, disappointment, anger, longing and eventual happiness. Greg’s comic moments occur in the lunch scene with the bag on his head, in the kite scene and his interactions with Snoopy and the other characters. He displays his strong singing voice in his solo section of “You’re a Good Man”, “The Kite”, “The Doctor Is In”, “The Book Report” and “The Baseball Song.” I last reviewed Greg in “Little Women” as the Professor. Lucy is beautifully played by Emily Buckley. She is very comical in “Schroeder” song while he plays the Moonlight Sonata, she sings to him about marriage and also shines in the Crabbiness Survey and the Queen segment, too. Emily is also hilarious as she counts the words in her book report on Peter Rabbit as well as in “Little Known Facts” where she tells Linus that snow falls up and if you hit your hard on the bark of a tree, it makes it grow faster.
One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Dana Reid as Snoopy. His comic timing and facial expressions are right on the money in all his vignettes and solos. His singing and dancing in “Suppertime” stops the show with merriment. Dana is hilarious in the “Snoopy” song when he just has to bite someone and in “Red Baron” monologue where he climbs on top of his doghouse and threatens to shoot down the Fokker triplane during World War I. Jenny Shubi is dynamite as Patty. Clad in a blonde wig, she makes Sally into a strong girl who knows her own mind especially when she demands that Snoopy help her hunt rabbits or when she devises her new philosophy. Patty is upset after receiving a D on her homework at school and comes up with a new philosophy where she says no to everyone she meets. Jenny stops the show with “New Philosophy” with her powerful vocal skills. She also sings “Home on the Range” with the chorus after Linus calls her an enigma. Another comic bit Adam gave her was to keep getting her foot tangled in her jump rope which is a hoot throughout the show.
Kevin Fortin plays Schroeder. He displays his strong baritone voice in “Home on the Range” but also in the newly created song for the revival called “Beethoven’s Day” where he wants the principal to declare a new holiday. It is a rock song with bits of Beethoven interspersed in it. Kevin also sings the Robin Hood part of the “Book Report” where his voice soars off the charts. Matthew Stone plays Linus where he displays his tenor voice. He shows it off in “My Blanket and Me” where he does a soft shoe dance with the cast. Matthew is very funny in this part as he does pratfalls when Lucy slugs him, sucks his thumb and makes her cry at the end of the crabbiness survey. He does the philosophical part of “The Book Report” and has a poignant moment with Lucy when he tells her that she has a little brother who loves her very much. His lisp as this character is perfect, too. The closing group number “Happiness” tugs on your heartstrings and leaves you with tears in your eyes. I have happy memories of this show having directed it back in 1979. So for a terrific family musical treat, be sure to catch “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at MMAS. Tell them Tony sent you.
YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN (20 October to 5 November)
MMAS, 277 North Main Street, Mansfield, MA
1(508)339-2822 or www.mmas.org