Review of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
Book, Music and Lyrics by Clark Gesner
Music Direction by Lynne Morrow
Stage Direction by Doyle Ott
Choreography by Anna Leach, Emily Rice with Dylan Smith
Sonoma State University Department of Music and Theatre Arts & Dance
Sonoma State University, Evert B. Person Theatre
Rohnert Park, CA

RUN: January 31 – February 11, 2018
RATING: 3.5 of 5 stars

February 2, 2018

Sonoma State University You're A Good Man Charlie Brown

Snoopy (Emily Rice) sings to Woodstock. Photo by James Wirth.

Heartwarming vignettes mingle seamlessly in a steady stream of insights and amusing antics from the beloved comic strip Peanuts in this tranquil musical. Sally rants against an unfairly graded art project of bent coat hangers, Lucy rules the playground, Linus waxes poetical while clutching his blanket, and Snoopy daydreams as a World War I flying ace in pursuit of the infamous Red Baron.

Michael Smith’s simplistic set design recreates the casual line drawings of Charles M. Schulz, filled with primal colors; the “kite eating tree” is particularly effective and integrates with the bold palette of Roxie Johnson’s costumes. Robin DeLuca’s lighting design takes center stage, shifting in vivid hues across an otherwise unencumbered backdrop. The puppet element of a fuzzy Woodstock entrances children in the audience, giving Snoopy a friend to interact with during songs.

Stage direction by Doyle Ott takes advantage of the shifting set elements, keeping visuals fresh between scenes, although the brick wall’s constant rotation becomes distracting during the Peter Rabbit book report. A clever reference to Les Miserables revitalizes it, with Charlie Brown enthusiastically waving a carrot flag while perched heroically atop the wall.

Noah Evans exaggerates the trials of Charlie Brown for comedic effect, trailing his baseball bat dejectedly after a disastrous game, and wringing his hands at the mailbox while waiting for a Valentine. Emily Rice lopes with boundless enthusiasm as Snoopy, exploding into a tap routine, while crooning “Suppertime”.

Sonoma State University Your'e A Good Man Charlie Brown

The ensemble gathers for the title song. Photo by James Wirth.

Anna Leach is an effective Lucy Van Pelt, curling her fist when life does not go her way, with an operatic clarity to her songs. Brandon Matel’s Schroeder blings up for “Beethoven Day” and manages to ignore Lucy’s constant pestering. Sally Brown’s (Hailey Patrick) innocent, cheeky comebacks add zest to the musical, although her rabbit hunting expedition became rather rambunctious with audience interactions. Mathew Adiao as Linus Van Pelt needs more rehearsal of the blanket dance, which is easily overlooked due to his natural chemistry with Leach. They are believable siblings, quarreling over a missing pencil only to come together with mutual understanding and support when the need arises.

Incorporating tumbling and dance infuses energy into this production. The action is infectious, with characters playing catch during the baseball game, running through the audience with nets, and leaping into forward rolls across the stage. Sonoma State University’s lively You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is a fun-filled performance for children and the young at heart.