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You're a Good Man Charlie Brown

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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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 Philosophy").

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.

- Miriam Zendle


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