Brooklyn Family Theatre’s production of
Clark Gesner’s "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown" opened
just as the Gallery Players’ production closed. But where the
Gallery Players used the original off-Broadway version, Brooklyn
Family Theatre has chosen to stage the Broadway revival.
Inevitably this calls for comparison.
The Broadway version features 23 new vignettes written by "Peanuts" creator Charles Schultz as adapted by Michael Mayer; and two new numbers, "My New Philosophy," sung by Sally (Katy Frame) and Schroeder (Andrew Bevan), and "Beethoven Day," performed by Schroeder and company, as well as revised jazzy arrangements by Andrew Lippa.
But surprisingly, this reviewer, even after seeing the off-Broadway version just a few short weeks ago, did not find the viewing experience much different. Sure, Brooklyn Family Theatre’s production used a fixed set rather than movable pieces, and a synthesizer instead of live music, but these differences did not substantially change the feel of the production.
So why another "Charlie Brown?"
The most obvious answer is poor timing. When community theaters are planning their season they rarely consult each other. With limited finances and limited choices they have neither the incentive nor the ability to select from a wide range of possibilities. Some overlap cannot be avoided.
But this fortuitous repetition can provide a welcome opportunity for those who missed the first production or, for those who did get to the Gallery Players’ production, a chance to take a friend, a child or a grandchild to see a show they have enjoyed so much.
The latest "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown" is directed by Phill Greenland and Lorraine Stobbe, both founders of the Brooklyn Family Theatre (BFT). It features John Kenneth Kelly as the modest and affable title character, Andrew Deichman as the blanket-toting Linus; Katy Frame as the philosophical Sally; Andrew Bevan as the piano-playing lover of Beethoven, Schroeder; Hector Coris (Rooster in "Annie" and the Tin Man in "The Wiz") as that indomitable dog Snoopy; and Jennifer Palumbo (Addaperle in "The Wiz") as the bossy Lucy.
Brooklyn Family Theatre, which has earned a reputation for making the most of scarce resources, once again manages to give a big-theater, lavish-production feel to a makeshift stage in a local church. This is achieved mainly through a clever deployment of microphones, a total use of the space, ingenious wiring (that makes Linus’ blanket fly) and, of course, the sheer talent of the performers.
This reviewer never tires of hearing Coris’ brassy baritone. It was also a pleasure to see Palumbo return to BFT’s stage. As for the newcomers, Kelly, Deichman, Frame and Bevan all make considerable contributions to the BFT talent pool, and this reviewer would very much like to see them again on the company’s stage.
What makes "Charlie Brown" such a perennial favorite? Undoubtedly the gentle and generous music of the late Brooklyn Heights composer-lyricist Clark Gesner, and Schultz’s insight into the workings of the human mind have a lot to do with it. Who can resist the eager but timid Charlie Brown? Who doesn’t sometimes wish for a comforting blanket like the one Linus holds all the time, and who would give it up if he did have one?
We’ve all met "crabby" people like Lucy - only most often after they’ve grown up. And surely Snoopy is the most human dog who ever inhabited a doghouse (although one suspects few ever slept on the roof).
So why another "Charlie Brown"? Because this play, like the characters it features, is forever young and forever fresh. The music touches us. The words inspire us. The dance delights us.
If you haven’t seen "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown" yet, go see this production. If you’ve already seen "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown," go see it again.
Brooklyn Family Theatre’s production
of "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown" plays through
Feb. 29, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 pm and 8 pm and Sundays
at 5 pm. Tickets are $12. Brooklyn Family Theatre is located
at The Church of Gethsemane, 1012 Eighth Ave. at 10th Street
in Park Slope. For reservations, call (718) 670-7205 or visit