Based on the popular Charles M Schulz comic strip, You're A Good Man,
Charlie Brown is taken from just some of the hundreds of strips Schulz
produced over the years, telling the story of a day in the life of
loner Charlie Brown and his friends and relatives Sally Brown, Lucy
and Linus Van Pelt, Schroeder and of course, Snoopy.
This may not be
the deepest theatre you see this year, or even this week, but it's a
lot of fun, full of silly, brilliant songs like "Beethoven's Birthday"
(of course) sung to the strains of Ode To Joy and "Book Report",
where Linus expands on the sociological implications of Peter Rabbit.
A cast of West End standard performers take us through the show with
gusto. Top of the pile is Hayley Gallivan, late of the Donmar's 25th
Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and keeper of an excellent set of
pipes. Gallivan does a mean line in youthful portrayals and is a joy
to watch, especially because the ever-changeable Sally has some of the
best lines, and one of the best numbers in the show ("My New
Adam Ellis' Linus is cute as a button, sarcastic and childish in equal
measure. Surgically attached to his blanket, but with a brain that
belies his years, Linus is one of the funniest characters in the show
- and Ellis milks every second of stage time, whether reciting a
degree-level book report (only meant to be 100 words) on Peter Rabbit
or backflipping and cartwheeling his way across the Tabard stage in
search of his blanket ("My Blanket and Me").
Nathaniel Harrison's Beethoven-loving Schroeder charms the audience
with some very apt facial expressions and lovely gospel vocals, while
Mark Anderson makes the most of his soulful eyes and flexibility as
the rather adorable Snoopy, who spends most of his time bemoaning the
idiocy of humans. Anderson even gets a bit of an 11 o'clock number
with the jazzy, tap-tastic "Suppertime".
At this point it would be
judicious to mention the clever choreography by Nick Winston, which
makes great use of the limited space and shows off what the cast can
do admirably, as well as the fantastically clever set by Simon Wells,
whose use of evocative colours gives a real sense of the cartoon.
Leanne Jones (a snotty but secretly terrified Lucy) could afford to
make her high notes less harsh, especially in such a small space,
while Lewis Barnshaw (a sympathetic yet pathetic Charlie Brown) could
do with a good deal more power in his. But both are spot on with their
comic timing and otherwise please.
This isn't lifechanging stuff, but it's good, frothy fun with a great
cast that deserves your time.