The first weekend of May this year, George Mason University School of Theater presented three concert performances of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. The musical is based on the beloved comic strip “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz, with book, music, and lyrics by Clark Gesner. Additional dialogue was provided by Michael Mayer, alongside additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. Erin Gardiner directed a highly enthusiastic and energetic cast for this playful production, with musical direction by Joe Walsh.
Given the intimate space of the Gregory Theater, as well as the fact that there were only three performances, technical effects were kept at a minimum. Technical Director Kevin Smith relied heavily on lighting, designed by Mary Clare Bernier, as opposed to detailed set pieces and decoration. These elements were not missed, however, because the performances and choreography were more than imaginative enough to fill the space! Live music included Conductor Joe Walsh on piano, Adelaide Hofmann on percussion, Josh Sheppard on drums, and Zoey Lamb on reeds, and the musicians all did a fine job.
The show has no real sequential plot; it’s really just a smattering of classic Peanuts clips set to song-and-dance numbers, which is a treat for any Peanuts fan, young and old alike. Luke Rahman played Charlie Brown well, with the character’s trademark naiveté and social anxiety hovering over the rest of his friend group like a heavy rain cloud. Benji Lord got a lot of laughs as Snoopy, and showcased some of the strongest vocals of the cast in his number “Suppertime,” while Spencer Wilde stood out as Schroeder, a piano prodigy who had a memorable meltdown while trying to conduct his friends to the tune of “Home on the Range.” Anthony Flora stole several scenes as Linus, a quirky character who poses eloquent philosophical theories while trailing around his blankie and sucking his thumb. “My Blanket and Me” proved to be an audience favorite, with the cast all dancing together with their own blankets. Sarah Stewart’s performance as Sally was both sweet and annoying (i.e., the perfect portrayal of a little girl), but Kamy Satterfield was perhaps the most memorable as Linus’ sister Lucy. Loud, obnoxious, and bossy, her presence was a demanding one, and it’s because of this that her character easily has the biggest arc, as she realizes that she can be hurtful and works to better herself.
Perfect performances and vocals shouldn’t be expected from young students who are still learning their craft, and while there was definitely room for improvement all around, their collective enthusiasm was contagious. Their cohesive teamwork also speaks to solid and steady direction from Gardiner and Walsh. These performers were having a blast, and the audience mirrored that energy right back to them. It was a lively night of entertainment that I believe Charles Schulz would have been proud of!
Running time was approximately two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.
A Concert Presentation of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown played May 5 to 7, 2023, presented by George Mason University’s School of Theater and the Mason Players performing at Hylton Performing Arts Center, Gregory Theater – 10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas, VA. For future events at this venue, please view their calendar here. For future shows, view George Mason’s School of Theater Performances Calendar here.
The program for this event is available here.
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
Based on The Comic Strip “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Clark Gesner
Additional Dialogue by Michael Mayer
Additional Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Directed by Erin Gardiner
Musical Direction by Joe Walsh