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Review: You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown - Tabard Theatre, Chiswick, London

You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown
Tabard Theatre, 2 Bath Road, Chiswick, W4 1LW

 As soon as you enter the wonderfully intimate Tabard Theatre, you are transported to the world of Peanuts, with Snoopy’s famous red kennel on the stage and the familiar cartoon background.

The show opens with Charlie Brown (Lewis Barnshaw – Just So) being told that, despite his failings (which are cruelly listed), he is a ‘good man’. Charlie wonders what it means to be a ‘good man’ and the show centres on him and his friends realising what makes them happy.

At school, during lunchtime, Charlie muses on the presence of the Little Red-Headed Girl. Meanwhile, Schroeder (Nathaniel Morrison – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) plays piano while Lucy (Leanne Jones – Hairspray) tries to bulldoze her way into his heart.

Leanne Jones
In Act One, we meet Lucy’s brother, Linus (Adam Ellis – Chicago), who loves nothing more than his blanket; Sally (Hayley Gallivan – Grease); and my childhood hero, Snoopy (Mark Anderson – The Boy Friend), who enjoys being a dog but sometimes dreams of being a jungle cat (let’s face it, who doesn’t?). Linus spends some more quality time with his blanket; Lucy decides to win a Queendom; and Charlie just tries to keep his kite in the air.

Act Two opens with Snoopy the World War One flying ace trying to bring down the infamous Red Baron (seriously, he is the coolest dog ever). Charlie loses the Very Little League’s Baseball Game, Lucy conducts a survey and finds out she really is crabby and Snoopy discovers the sheer unadulterated excitement and unparalleled delight that comes from seeing a full food bowl. The group think about happiness, and the show finishes with Lucy telling Charlie he is a ‘good man’.

Despite my terrible synopsis, I was mesmerised throughout by the genuinely excellent cast. I was going to give extra points to Mark Anderson for his portrayal of Snoopy, but I’d also have to give them to Adam Ellis for a perfect Linus, Leanne Jones for a fabulous Lucy, Lewis Barnshaw for a faultless.. oh, you get it.. they all deserve extra points. Playing well-known characters is always a challenge, but to do so in a believably childlike (and not forgetting doglike) way takes real skill. Hats off to them for being brave enough to attempt it; that they somehow manage to make it look so effortless is testament to their talent.

The musical numbers are excellently written and choreographed, and are performed with precision by the cast (did I mention they’re really quite good?) and a live band hidden in the wings. The stage set looks and feels like a cartoon, and the whole show is filled with the innocence and joy of youth.

I recommend this to everyone. Kids will love the cartoony feel and ‘relateability’, adults will love it after watching the cartoons on TV, and grandparents will love it from the comic strips. I loved the comic strip. I loved the cartoon series on TV. And now I love the musical.

I do have one word of warning, though: you’ll find yourself humming ‘You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown’ most of the following day. I did. In fact, I’m doing it again now. I also just bought the original cast CD and booked to see it again. Snoopy is still my hero.

You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown plays at the Tabard Theatre, Chiswick until 30 October. Tickets £18 from http://www.tabardweb.co.uk/charliebrown.htm

Review by Robin Foreman-Quercus

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