Sixty-six years after the first Peanuts cartoon by Charles M Schultz was published, his little gang of kids has lost none of its timeless appeal.
You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown
And in Bullfrog’s musical production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown at Chequer Mead yesterday, Schultz’s enduring characters were brought vividly to life.
I first saw the show in the West End in 1968, and again in America some 20 years later, but this was the first time I had seen it performed by a cast of children – and they nailed it.
The eponymous star of the show Charlie Brown may only be five, but he is an everyman weighed down by self-doubt, his inability to fly a kite or hit a baseball, and his hopeless love for a little red-headed girl who has never even looked at him.
Jamie Kaye, who played him in this production, perfectly captured Charlie’s hopeless view of the world, with an endearing performance which seamlessly combined humour and pathos, often in the same breath.
Lucy – bossy, opinionated and in love with piano-playing Schroeder – was in very safe hands with Abby Ingham who drew every ounce of humour out of Lucy’s unshakeable self-belief – despite failing her “crabbiness survey”.
And in Little Known Facts she was at her bossy best as she refused to let Charlie even suggest that any of the highly dubious ‘knowledge’ she was passing on to little brother Linus was less than entirely accurate.
In a show which had so many excellent performances, Linus – played by Helen Bellinger – was outstanding.
Helen threw herself into the role of Lucy’s blanket-toting male sibling with absolute relish. Her routine in My Blanket and Me was full of character, and she never for one moment forgot to be her male alter ego, even when taking her well-earned bow at the end of the show.
Plaudits too for Charlotte Nield as the cute red-headed girl.
With a voice of great control and maturity, Charlotte was also so strikingly pretty that poor Charlie’s devotion to her was as entirely plausible as it was utterly futile.
A special word of praise too for Alicia Depper as Snoopy. Alicia combined very assured vocals with a quirky performance which was wry, hilarious and perfectly captured Snoopy’s bizarre fantasy world – not least when chasing the Red Baron and extolling the virtues of Suppertime.
Harriet Lake was delightful as the Beethoven obsessed Schroeder, who was the unwitting – and entirely unaware – object of Lucy’s affections. And Amber Titchener was very assured as Sally, Charlie’s younger sister, not least when extolling her New Philosophy.
But this show is essentially an ensemble piece.
Penny Bignall, Daisie Lumley, Ellie Chalcraft and Twinkle MacInnes gave lovely performances in Just One Person, Josh Clements showed great comic timing as Woodstock, and younger cast members certainly had the aah factor.
So on this showing I think it is fair to say that Peanuts is alive and well – and delighting another generation.
Reviewer : Geraldine Durrant
This review was first published on East Grinstead’s Community News Website www.EastGrinsteadOnline.com