I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
Who doesn't have a soft spot for Charles Schulz's Peanuts? Even today, Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the whole gang conjure up the best kind of nostalgia and Bankstown Theatre Company's production of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown really capitalises on the nostalgia factor with a thoughtful and colourful show.
The show doesn't follow a linear narrative, rather it is a series of vignettes featuring Peanuts favourites such as Linus, Lucy, Sally Brown, Schroeder and of course Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Charlie is his usual 'woe is me' self, questioning whether he is, in fact, a good man. Throughout the show we see Charlie struggle with his self-confidence, but in the end, he realises that things aren't so bad after all.
Kenney Ogilvie as Charlie Brown / Photo: Ray Parkinson.
This show is, according to the program, Dale Selsby's first major musical as a director, which makes this gorgeous little production a major achievement. With the exception of a few minor moments that I felt could be re-worked, this show is a heartfelt, well thought out production that put a smile on my face. Selsby's direction is wonderfully supported by the musical direction of Kerryn Blanch, who heads up an utterly superb pit orchestra - one of the best I've heard in community theatre. Musical staging by Gavin Leahy is simple and clever, playing with bold, child-like movements to great effect.
The cartoon-esque set is utterly perfect for the show with all the colour and vibrance that we expect from Peanuts. Cameron Lewis has done a great job bringing the set design to fruition and it's well supported by great animations from the multi-talented Kenney Ogilvie who also plays Charlie Brown. The teamwork of Lynne Beach, Lesley Harris and Arthur Pickering on the costumes make the cast instantly childlike and recognisable as their characters. I really only had one gripe regarding the production elements, which was the unfortunate misbalance of sound at times, which meant the orchestra was much louder than the cast - particularly noticeable when only one or two people were singing. This happened sporadically, though, and it didn't detract too much from the action - I'm sure it's something that can be fixed rather quickly.
Jessica James-Moody and Jordan Jansons / Photo: Ray Parkinson.
The cast of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown are nothing short of wonderful. They maintain a high energy performance throughout, which can be hard when a show is structured in short, snappy vignettes. Kenney Ogilvie as everyone's favourite round-headed kid, Charlie Brown, captures Charlie's hopefulness and hopelessness very well. From the opening scene, the audience were making "awww" sounds every time something went wrong for Charlie, a telling sign that Ogilvie's performance resonated.
Jessica James-Moody puts in a great turn as the very crabby Lucy Van Pelt. She is able to take her Lucy from saccharine to furious seamlessly and her physical character work is perhaps the most childlike of the cast. As her brother, Linus, Jordan Jansons plays the wiser-than-his-years little brother beautifully, making him completely likeable and kind to balance out his sister's crabbiness. Jansons American accent stumbles a little at certain times, but we can certainly forgive this given his lovely portrayal.
Kate Selsby as Sally Brown / Photo: Ray Parkinson.
As the budding pianist, Schroeder, Andrew Jackaman gives an earnest performance, never wavering in his adoration for Beethoven. His 'Beethoven Day' is a lot of fun. Ben Dodd's Snoopy sings and dances well, but I'd love to see Dodd relish the role a little more. In the performance I saw, he barely cracked a smile, even as he played up the joyously hammy number 'Suppertime'. Similarly, his opening 'Red Baron' monologue at the commencement of Act Two could go much farther in terms of energy and commitment.
Kate Selsby's Sally has some of the funniest moments in this show with a real highlight being her rendition of 'My New Philosophy'. I'd love to see her take the character even further as the run continues. Finally, Sophie Lewis has a lovely cameo as Linus' blanket, demonstrating some great dance skills.
You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown is an absolute treat of a show, and one that we don't get to see too often on amateur theatre stages. It's a brilliant show for all ages, so I'd definitely recommend making the trip to Bankstown to experience a couple of hours of 'happiness'.