Good things come in small packages

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Book, music, and lyrics by Clark Gesner
Directed by Matt Schicker
Musical direction by Brandon Sturiale
Gallery Players
199 14th St., Brooklyn (718/595-0547)
Equity showcase (closes Feb. 1)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown opened Off-Off-Broadway in 1967 and ran for almost 1,600 performances. The Gallery Players revived the original show, and it was evident why it ran so long. Charlie Brown is one of those simple shows that entertains both kids and adults alike.

There is very little plot to the show; it is mostly filled with vignettes and sketches based on the comic strip Peanuts. There are six main characters in the show -- the neurotic Charlie Brown; narcissistic Lucy; her intelligent, younger brother Linus (and his blue blanket); musically obsessed Schroeder; outspoken Patty; and of course, that existential pup Snoopy.

The show is filled with a tuneful score written by Clark Gesner (who also did the book). The songs are charming and funny, just like the original comic. Some of the highlights include "My Blanket and Me," Linus's love song to his blanket; "The Doctor is In," where Lucy gives Charlie Brown some much-needed therapy; and "Happiness," the lighthearted finale of hope and joy. While an audience of today might not want to give up the harmonies and new songs of the recent Broadway revival, the original version worked so well in this intimate space that it more than compensated for the absent material.

The Gallery Players assembled a top-notch ensemble. Each person on stage took their part and added his or her own nuances. The standouts included Brian Ogilvie, who made the role of Schroeder seem a much bigger part than it is -- when he lost it during the "Glee Club Rehearsal" he really lost it. The next standout was Dax Valdes as Linus; his dancing with his blanket was gleeful and his interpretation of lines comically clever. The rest of the cast, consisting of Jennifer Smiles (as the bossy Lucy), Lauren Allison Spees (as the in-your-face Patty -- her use of her jump-rope was especially appealing), Nicholas Sattinger (as the show-stopping Snoopy), and Christopher Gleason (as the self-deprecating title character), fared well, too.

Matt Schicker smartly directed the production with a meticulous attention to detail and adept eye for staging. Brandon Sturiale musically directed with a good ear and commanded the tiny trio of an orchestra well. Brian Mulay's choreography was extremely enjoyable and vivacious, and fit perfectly with the material. His use of various props, including baseball bats in "The Baseball Game," was uniquely clever and impressive.

Technically, the show was also well-done. There was a slide projection that greeted the audience, which was also used in the opening number. The set, by Timothy J. Amrhein was colorfully cartoony -- the cast changed a lot of the set while whistling various numbers, so that there was never a down moment. Kathleen Leary's costumes captured the characters -- the highlight was Snoopy's costume; his pant legs were different colors (one black, one white), and he had cute ears to bounce around.

Overall, this was a great production of a cute musical. It was the perfect show to take families to. There was something everyone could enjoy. It was certainly worth the trek to Brooklyn for an evening of this caliber.

  Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2004 Seth Bisen-Hersh