WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. — Shadow Lawn Stage, the professional theatre of Monmouth University, will present one of the American theatre’s most beloved musicals, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, in the Lauren K. Woods Theatre, opening on June 23, 2017.
A series of vignettes and songs inspired by the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz, the musical follows Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Sally, Schroeder and Snoopy as they confront struggles such as school, security blankets and chasing rabbits, while celebrating Beethoven, little known facts and, of course, happiness. The show features music, book and lyrics by Clark Gesner, with additional dialogue by Michael Mayer and additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa.
Maurice J. Moran directs the production, which features choreography by Catherine Mancuso. Joe Rapolla is the producer and Sheri Anderson is the artistic director of Shadow Lawn Stage. The cast includes both professional actors and Monmouth University students and features Nick Zaccario* (Charlie Brown), James T. Saunders* (Snoopy), J.D. Ricafort† (Schroeder), Sarah Beth Andrews† (Sally), Evan Kudish❖ (Linus) and Erin Clemente❖ (Lucy).
This production celebrates the 50th anniversary of the original off-Broadway production, which opened in 1967 and ran for more than 1,500 performances. Prior to its 1999 revival on Broadway, Gesner worked with director Michael Mayer and composer Andrew Lippa to update the book, music and lyrics. The result was a completely rewritten book, several dynamic new songs and a fresh new orchestration. The show took home a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award and two Tony Awards.
Told with equal parts comedy and poignancy, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is the rare sort of theatre piece that manages to engage and enthrall young children while still offering plenty of resonance for older, more sophisticated audience members. Although all the characters – with the exception of Snoopy – are children, the characters and conflicts in the play have a universality that transcends the generations. From Lucy’s five-cent advice to Snoopy’s enthusiasm over the prospect of dinner, the situations in this script capture the warm-hearted silliness that was always the hallmark of the Peanuts comic strip.
The play begins with Charlie Brown in the lunchroom, lamenting all the ways in which his life is a disappointment. In a series of brief scenes – which draw on common themes from the comic strip – we see what he means. Between kite-flying fiascos, book report breakdowns and his unrequited love for the little red-haired girl, the audience is privy to Charlie Brown’s all-consuming angst.
As the show comes to a close, however, Charlie Brown realizes that he does have many things to be thankful for. In the final number, he is joined by the entire cast to sing the uplifting number, “Happiness,” which concludes, “happiness is anyone or anything at all, that’s loved by you.”
From Sally’s search for meaning (“A New Philosophy”) to Linus’s ode to his ubiquitous security blanket (“My Blanket and Me”) to Snoopy’s exaltation of a meal (“Suppertime!”), You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is great fun for anyone who has ever chuckled over one of Schulz’s whimsical comic strips.
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown runs June 23 — July 2, 2017 and plays Fridays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets are available for $30, $20 (seniors) and $10 (students) and are available by calling the box office at 732-263-6889 or online at www.monmouth.edu/arts
* denotes Member, Actors’ Equity Association
† denotes Equity Membership Candidate
❖ denotes Monmouth University Student