Arts theater review

‘I thought I could do it. I really thought I could.’

MTG’s ‘You‘re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’ examines life through a childish lens

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Schroeder (Hubert Hwang ’07), Snoopy (Christina Wettersten G), Charlie Brown (Geoff Hegg ’17), Sally (Adrianna Amaro ’20), Lucy (Kitty Drexel), and Linus (Allan Sadun G) sing about Beethoven's birthday.
Daniel Landez

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
Directed by Paul Gallagher
Produced by Kimberly Dauber
Book, music, and lyrics by Clark Gesner
Based on the comic strips by Charles M. Schulz
Kresge Little Theater
Aug. 31, Sept. 1, Sept. 7–8, and Sept. 13–14 at 8 p.m.
Sept. 2 and Sept. 15 at 2 p.m.

As one of MTG’s more realistic shows, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown portrays the worries, passions, and day-to-day life of unique characters. Their uniqueness provides a good balance of personalities, and there are some parts of every character that are relatable to the audience. The characters’ seemingly trivial troubles and personalities, though exaggerated, help us discover things in ourselves and look back at our actions.

At first glance, the musical seems to be written for children, because all the characters are children and because their “serious” problems are insignificant to older audiences. I distinctly remember watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and other television specials as a child and enjoying the music and the fun all the characters had. My mother would always watch with me, and I used to wonder why she was just as interested as I was. I realize now that it’s because parts of the  characters really respond to our thoughts in our lives. The show exposes themes that transcend age and expresses characteristics that are fundamentally human.

I believe that the relatability of the musical comes primarily from each character having their own developments and the story being episodic rather than having a central, significant conflict. This structure may be related to the musical being based off of the comic strip. Like the comic strip, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is relaxing to watch, since there are no heart-grappling issues or things to remember as the show progresses, and because the comedy is light and easy to understand. In turn, each “episode” helps us understand the characters better, some even helping the characters reevaluate themselves.

Take “My Blanket and Me,” for example — Lucy (Kitty Drexel) teases Linus (Allan Sadun ’17/G) because he is too childish to give up his blanket. Linus, trying to prove his “independent station,” abandons his blanket but frantically returns to it within a couple seconds. Both the characters and the audience discover that Linus, who is well-spoken and mature most of the time, has something he clings onto for comfort. But, as the director of this production (Paul Gallagher G) says, “doesn’t everyone continue to cling to things that make them comfortable?” In this way, each of these characters’ growth shows us something that the audience empathizes with.

Another good musical number in the show was “The Book Report,” where Linus, Lucy, Charlie Brown (Geoff Hegg ’17) and Schroeder (Hubert Hwang ’07) all write a report on Peter Rabbit. Here the audience can see the difference in all of the characters’ thought processes. Each musical number is unique both musically and thematically, and the music in “The Book Report” helps reemphasize how different each character is. I personally appreciated the infusion of classical music in the show, as seen in “Schroeder” and “Beethoven Day,” and the particular mix of fun, jazzy songs like “Suppertime” and softer, more reflective songs like “Happiness.”

This production is smaller compared to past MTG shows I’ve watched; the cast consists of only six characters and an orchestra of seven parts, with Matt Putnam ’09 piano-conducting in the pit. Because it was small, each character had bigger roles, which emphasized the characters themselves and highlighted the talents of all members of the production. The acting was superb; it felt as though the characters came alive because of who was casted for them.

Little Kresge, as designed, was small enough to make the experience a little more intimate. The characters seemed more real, and watching was a pleasure, especially since the audience was all laughing together. This will be a light, fun watch before the semester becomes busy, so why not go check out and see what you relate to in these characters?