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You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown | Upstairs at the Gatehouse

You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown opened on Broadway in 1967 and ran for over 1500 performances although the West End version which opened in 1968 only ran for just over 100. Based on Charles M Schultz’s comic strip Peanuts which was first published in 1950, Schultz wrote and drew over 17000 strips before he died in 2000. The strips featured life in middle America as well as some homespun philosophy seen through the eyes of a group of six-year-olds and Snoopy the dog. The strip was then adapted for You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown by Clark Gesner who wrote the book, music and lyrics although it was later revised with additional dialogue from Michael Mayer and additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and that’s the version that’s currently playing at Upstairs At The Gatehouse.

YAGMCB - Eleanor Fransch, Millie Robins, Oliver Sidney, Troy Yip, Jacob Cornish, Jordan Broatch.
YAGMCB – Eleanor Fransch, Millie Robins, Oliver Sidney, Troy Yip, Jacob Cornish, Jordan Broatch.

You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown is a series of vignettes with songs in between told by the five children and Snoopy. There’s the shy, introverted, confidence-lacking Charlie Brown (Jordan Broatch) and his more gregarious, homework-hating sister Sally (Millie Robins. Then there are their friends including the intellectual, Beethoven-loving, piano-playing Schroeder (Troy Yip) and the spiky, bossy, opinionated Lucy van Pelt (Eleanor Fransch) and her thumb-sucking, security blanket-grasping brother Linus (Jacob Cornish). To complete the group there’s the World War I flying ace (or so he imagines), Snoopy the beagle (Oliver Sidney) and it’s their adventures that we follow as they squabble, play baseball, battle the Red Baron and philosophise.

The problem with You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown is that it’s not a very good musical! Apart from one or two, the songs aren’t very memorable apart from Sally’s “My New Philosophy” and the showstopping, tap dancing, acrobatic “Suppertime” from the scene-stealing Snoopy. Also, the sketches between the songs don’t really flow – there’s no real narrative to hold everything together. The young cast do their best with some very ordinary material but they never really channel their inner six-year-old selves which is surprising as they’re all so young (three of them have just graduated from drama school). Unfortunately, Amanda Noar’s direction makes them either screech, make silly faces and walk in odd ways – at no time do we really believe they’re children. Ruby Bowell-Green’s set is a fun cartoon-strip backdrop in the Schultz style although I’m not sure what the large cards with cartoon stars, sun, clouds etc were meant to add; they couldn’t be seen by some of the audience and they had to be changed by Musical Director Harry Style in between superbly leading the five-piece band of keyboards, bass, drums, violin and reeds who were excellent throughout.

Since You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown was written over 50 years ago, there have been lots of great musicals that deserve to be revived so it’s surprising that the excellent team at Upstairs At The Gatehouse have chosen a bit of a dud this time.

2 gold stars

Review by Alan Fitter

Charlie Brown is five years old and trying his best. But things just don’t seem to go his way: his kite won’t fly, the Little Red-Haired Girl won’t look at him, and he’s not even sure his dog Snoopy likes him all that much!

Assistant Director: Isaac Bernier-Doyle (he/him)
Set Designer: Ruby Boswell-Green (she/her)
Costume Designer: Holly Louise Chapman (she/her)
Director & Choreographer: Amanda Noar
Musical Director: Harry Style
Based on the comic strip “Peanuts” by Charles M Schulz
Book, Music & Lyrics by Clark Gesner
Additional Dialogue by Michael Mayer
Additional Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Producer: Annlouise Butt (she/her) for Chromolume productions

LISTINGS INFORMATION
14 December 2023 – 14 January 2024
Tuesdays to Fridays – 7.30pm
Saturdays – 3.00pm & 7.30pm | Sundays – 4.00pm
Additional Matinees – Friday 22 & Wednesday 27 – 3.00pm
Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate Village, N6 4BD
www.upstairsatthegatehouse.com

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