You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown exists for one simple reason. While there are musicals with catchier songs or flashier numbers, Charlie Brown exists to make you feel happy, through the struggles of one little everyman.
Obviously, the musical is based on Charles M. Schulz's comic strip, Peanuts, which ran new strips weekly for fifty years. Peanuts introduced the world to Charlie Brown, Sally, Snoopy, Woodstock, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, Peppermint Patty, Marcy, Pig Pen, Franklin, and many more. The strip mostly focused on Charlie's day-to-day struggles and Snoopy's extremely busy imaginative adventures.
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown opened off-Broadway in 1967 with music and lyrics by Clark Gesner and book by John Gordon (which was just a pseudonym for Gesner and the original cast). The structure of the musical suceeds capturing that feeling of reading a new Peanuts strip every Sunday.
The entire show takes place across one typical day in the life of Charlie Brown from being late to school to watching the stars with his friends. Some scenes are only long enough for a quick joke and others take their time to set up Charlie Brown's emotions and how he deals with the people (and dog) in his life.
CTC's production of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown is fun, light, and fast-paced, while also doing some interesting things with the visuals. From Deb De Grosse's direction to Thom Porterfield's set design, the audience is instantly placed in that comic strip world and Jim Allen's bright lighting design with Shawn Akacich's costuming just further cement that suspension of disbelief.
With fun performances by Don Delach (Charlie Brown), Patty Davis (Lucy), Evan Smith (Linus) and David Simpson (Schroeder), the show stays quick on its toes. Michael Coffman excels as Snoopy, a character he is diving into for a second time. Coffman was a delightful and consistent presence on the Central Oregon stage for more than a decade until his retirement from theater a couple of years ago. But he couldn't sit this one out.
"After performing in over 40 shows in Bend theater, I needed to take a little break" says Coffman. "When I saw the auditions for You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown at CTC, a wave of nostalgia ran across my heart. The role of Snoopy left an indelible impression on me when I performed the show in high school 30 years ago. That role taught me how to be passionate and expressive. It truly shaped my personality. In addition, the songs of the show have been running through my head since high school—whenever I had a homework assignment that was overdue, whenever I had a moment of failure, or whenever I took a long look at my life and thought, 'Not bad—not bad at all.'"
One of the most incredible things about the show is the performance of Tara Johnson as Sally Brown. Her Sally explodes across stage, bringing the manic spirit of Charlie Brown's little sister to life. The amazing thing is not just the performance, but the fact that she took over the role just a week and a half before opening night. Losing actors happens sometimes, but it's rare to see someone outright own a role with such little rehearsal time. These happy accidents are what make theater such a thrill to be a part of and to witness.
The opening night crowd seemed to love the show, with belly laughs and "d'awwwwws" abounding. It is a good show to bring kids to since seeing these characters living and laughing should be a super surreal and trippy experience for them (and that's what kids totally need more of). It's almost impossible not to smile at this show and I double-dog dare you to try.
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
7:30 pm, Nov. 20-Dec. 19
(Thanksgiving week is dark)
Cascades Theatrical Company
148 NW Greenwood Ave.