On Halloween night, while many Cornellians were out on the town celebrating the holiday, the members of Brand-X were hard at work inside Risley Theater ironing the last few kinks out of their production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. The six person cast, along with a technical crew of about ten people, has been rehearsing the show for the past six weeks.
Based on Peanuts, the work of the late Charles Schulz,You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is a musical rendition of what has become a staple of American entertainment — the comic strip.
The show’s director, Harvey Young grad is no stranger to the stage. Young has been involved in 20 shows in his past three years at Cornell. He took on the task of directing this show when the initial director stepped down due to scheduling conflicts.
Like Schulz’s Peanuts, this musical follows the self-doubting everyman, Charlie Brown. As the majority of the show’s dialogue was taken directly from Schulz’s original strips, the production is rich with witty quips and social commentary.
One of the first things you may notice about this show is the set. The stage is bare except for a simple backdrop of sky and green grass and Snoopy’s bright red doghouse. To the left of the main acting space, a small area is reserved for musicians. Musical Director Adam Farouk ’01 heads up a group of three musicians who provide one hundred percent of the show’s music. Though this makeshift band is composed of nothing more than a piano, a saxophone, a clarinet, and a violin, the results lend the show a certain authenticity. An audience member who is familiar with the animated Charlie Brown series will recognize the classic “Linus and Lucy.”
When asked why he took on this project, Farouk replied, “[The show] brings you back to your youth.”
As the lights dim and the music starts, Charlie Brown himself, portrayed by Ian Woolford ’01, begins the show with a monologue describing his self-proclaimed miserable life. At one point in the show, he poses the question, “How could there possibly be someone so thoroughly, totally, utterly BLAH as me?”
Luckily, Woolford’s own views on the show are far more positive than his character’s outlook could lead one to believe. Of the show he said, “It is really great to work with a small cast, a small team where you can see how everyone’s individual part fits in.”
Fellow cast member Jenna Grossman ’02, who portrays know-it-all Lucy agreed. “[This show] puts you in a good mood,” she said.
The show moves smoothly from scene to scene with musical numbers spaced periodically between sections of pure dialog. As the first act progresses, the audience watches as various sub-plots are developed between the characters. One example is Lucy’s infatuation with a philosophical musician named Scroder, portrayed by Samauel Knowlton ’02.
Another rather humorous sub-plot is composed of a series of monologues given by Snoopy, played by Suzanna Yaukey ’01. The audience is privy to Snoopy’s most inner thoughts and gets a clear sense of Snoopy’s existential crisis when the audacious beagle states, “Yesterday I was a dog. Today I’m a dog. Tomorrow, I’ll probably still be a dog. There’s just so little hope of advancement.” We go on to watch Snoopy fantasize about biting someone for the sake of his beaglehood and pretend to be an ace fighter pilot on the prowl for the infamous Red Barron.
The cast is rounded out with the ironically intellectual Linus (Jeremy Riley ’04) and the unreasonably reasonable Patty (Aimee Rifkin ’03). As there are only six roles, each cast member has a substantial part. This gives the audience a clear insight into each character’s idiosyncrasies. From the semi-neurotic Charlie to Linus and his blanket, the details of this show hold true to the Schulz’s original creations. Lucy has her blue dress, Schroder has his red sweater and piano, and Snoopy tap dances like a professional.
The show’s timing is rather appropriate, as Charles Schulz passed away last February after producing what became his final installment of Peanuts — which ran in newspapers across the world the next day. In this sense, Brand-X’s production serves as a tribute to the late cartoonist — an idea shared by the U.S. Postal Service (the commemorative Peanuts stamps debut next year).
Archived article by Nate Brown