You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Reviewer's rating

The Gatehouse is the highest theatre in London (446ft above sea level); the pub has been licenced since 1337. The building was used for meetings, as a courthouse, and a theatre opened in 1895.

Charles Schultz dreamed of being a cartoonist; his first cartoon was Snoopy, other characters followed when in 1947 a comic strip appeared called ‘Lil Folks’ in a Minnesota newspaper.  By 1950 it had become ‘Peanuts’, published in over 2,600 newspapers, read by 350 million people in 75 countries. Merchandising began in 1958 and in 1999 20,000 different products were marketed. Snoopy was based on Schultz’ black and white dog: Charlie Brown was Shultz’ real-life student. This musical appeared in 1967, and as a film in 1985. ‘Good-grief’ is the go-to expression of frustration in the Peanuts world.

There is a Snoopy Museum in California and in Tokyo!  Snoopy was the nickname of the lunar module for Apollo 10 in 1969 and Nasa floated Snoopy in space in Artemis 1 in 2022.

This is a joyous, exuberant show. Of course, we can pick holes in it. The music is not the greatest; although Beethoven is cleverly interwoven into some of the numbers. Für Elise has an interesting song woven around it; the 9th Symphony is cleverly rearranged. Where Mozart’s Alla Turca fits in, I am not sure. The diction in some of the songs needs improvement; the actors are not five-year-olds. It is an achievement to sing that badly out of tune.  Good grief! But we are adults. This is not for us. It is for children.

Abigail, aged 9 loved it because the characters always do funny things. She thinks Snoopy is hilarious when he overacts when his supper is a few minutes late. Snoopy’s tap dance routine is amazing. She likes them all going to school in a bus. Her favourite part was when Lucy asks everyone to fill in her questionnaire, and does not get the replies she wants. Abigail’s funniest part was when they couldn’t spell TEAM properly.

Emily, aged 13 loved it because it is funny and the area is so close and intimate you can interact and become involved with the characters. She likes Snoopy’s Suppertime best. Emily likes the way all the characters are different yet all brought together in the end. The beginning says how hopeless Charlie Brown is at everything, he cannot fly a kite, or play games well, he is clumsy, he has no confidence, he is a little stupid, but forever hopeful. At the end they all say ‘You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown’, meaning that everyone is touched because he tries to make everyone happy, and that Happiness is his goal in life.

They both recommend it to their friends as a fun way to spend a day out with friends or family, and very kid friendly. They both give 5*****.

These five-year-olds already have distinctive characters.

Wearing trademark zig-zag t shirt Jordan Broatch as Charlie Brown lumbers appealingly with his loping walk, innocent grin, and faith that all will turn out well eventually.  Sally Brown his sparky sister will become a modern artist, given her penchant for coat-hanger sculpture. Linus the thumb-sucking, comfort-blanket seeking know-it-all, is the intellectual. Lucy his persistently crabby sister who wants to be a Queen, will do well in sales. Lucy loves Shroeder. Beethoven-loving Shroeder loves his piano and will become a pianist.  Snoopy will remain the loveable dog.

Oliver Sydney steals the show as Snoopy, who sometimes really feels like biting somebody, but he knows that he shouldn’t. Good grief! His tap-dance number was great fun. The cast are reasonably convincing 5-year-olds.

Ruby Boswell-Green’s vibrant sets feature Lucy’s Psychiatry booth, the yellow school bus, Shroder’s red mini-piano, and Snoopy’s doghouse.

Director Amanda Noar’s staging is full of delights, and allowing characters to interact with the audience.

If you to entertain your children over the holidays, this is a must!