Saturday, March 10, 2012

REVIEW: Tony Bump’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” plays nicely (and doesn’t run with scissors) at Love Street Playhouse in Woodland, Wash.

Jeanna Reed as Snoopy and Tony Bump as Charlie Brown in the Love
Street Playhouse production of "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown."
                                                                         Photo by Ruth Zschomler
Somehow, as a 1970s high school theater geek, I acquired an LP of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” and played it repeatedly while singing along to the title track, My Blanket and Me, Happiness and the show’s other catchy songs.

Since then I’ve seen a production or two—but that was before it was re-envisioned in the 1999 Broadway revival. Love Street Playhouse (LSP) produced the new version. And I must say, with a few new songs and a character swap (Sally for Patty) the show is now better.

Can’t say I ever really loved the show for more than its music. It’s quirky and silly and lacks a through story. Still, if you’re a fan of the Peanuts gang comic strip, you will probably like the show for its strip style vignettes.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed the LSP presentation very much. It was an uplifting, fun evening and the cast was near perfect. The ensemble, headed by director Tony Bump in the leading role, cranked out plenty of energy and enthusiasm.

And never have I seen a cast try so much to look like the Schultz characters. Bump even shaved his head and Gary Bock (Schroeder) went sans goatee! Not only did they look like the kids, they acted like them, too.

“Charlie Brown” kicked off Love Street’s sixth season with their first ever Broadway musical. Bump not only directed and starred, he was choreographer and musical director. The result was very nice.

And I say nice because, not only was it pleasant, Bump didn’t do anything “out there” with it (as he did in his racy, post-apocalyptic production of “Pirate of Penzance” several years back). In other-words I did not want to walk out on this. The only problem with the direction was that on several occasions the characters sat on the floor where they could not be seen by anyone but the patrons in the front rows.

Musically, several of the songs were nicely harmonized, while others were a little rough—even beyond those which seemed intentionally off tune for comic relief. The simple set—designed by Bump to look like comic strip panels was quite effective. And the costumes by Jennifer Johnson were absolutely amazing.

Johnson also played the part of Lucy Van Pelt with true vitality and humor. Garry Bastian played her little brother Linus quite well. But, the three players that stood out were Gary Bock as Schroeder, Jeanna Reed as Snoopy (yes, a female) and Dorinda Toner as Sally Brown.

Bock is really talented; just watching his face is a joy. He sings nicely and seems to live his character. The clash between him and Johnson’s love-sick Lucy was hilarious.

Reed (Snoopy) was so much fun. There’s a lot of energy and talent in that compact package. The energetic wiggles and woofs are convincingly full of puppy love. The production’s show stopping number is Suppertime for which she did her own choreography—the best dance of the show (she teaches dance at CYT, etc.). I only wish that her small voice could have belted the tune out a bit more.

I got the most kick out of Toner’s portrayal of Sally. It was a hoot! I was sold that she was a little kid. She played it with all she’s got—it’s on her face, in her posture, in her voice—it must truly be in her heart.

All in all, the Love Street Playhouse production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” directed by Tony Bump, was a joy to experience and a fine presentation--great for the whole family. LSP Producer and Artist Director Melinda Leuthod has chosen wisely.

The show runs now through March 31, Friday and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are available at, at Columbia Bank in Woodland or by calling 360.263.6670.

Review by Gregory E. Zschomler

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