Reviews: Snoopy the Musical | You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review: Snoopy the Musical at Church Hill Theatre (Venue 137), and You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown at (Paradise in Augustine’s (Venue 152), reviewed by Martin Gray

You wait years for one Peanuts musical to show up on the Fringe, then two turn up at once.

Both Snoopy The Musical (★★★) and You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (★★★★) stick to a formula, adapting Charles M Schulz’s beloved cartoons in sketch and song. The tunes are charming, and clever – we’re not talking kids’ stuff, this is true all-ages material, with Schulz’s humorous insights speaking to anyone who’s ever felt they’re the loser, the blockhead.

Snoopy comes as part of the excellent American High School Theatre Festival, which brings the best of US teen theatre to the Fringe year in, year out. Its cast of Arkansas students impressed immediately with their splendid costumes and wigs, looking the image of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Peppermint Patty and co. A full-on Snoopy beagle suit would make it impossible for its inhabitant to bound around the stage, but a onesie and clever make-up worked wonders. The players attacked the material with respect and charm, and the occasional gaucheness and dropped line seemed rather appropriate for the world of eternal underdog Charlie Brown. And yellow bird Woodstock – someone’s ;little brother, I guess – won hearts with every wee walk-on.

You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown is a homegrown production, from Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group. The costumes weren’t as close to the cartoons, and Snoopy should at least have a spot of black on his nose, but the staging and performances were as slick as you like.

The sketches in Snoopy are pretty random, but this Tony award-winner has more of a narrative, following the titular hero as he tries to make sense of life. The show opens like a psychodrama, with Charlie Brown (never Charlie, sometimes Chuck) on a darkened stage, beset by the offstage voices of his friends pointing out his faults. Happily, things cheer up when Lucy, Schroeder, Snoopy, Linus and sister Sally show up on stage to showcase their own foibles and frustrations.

The singing is first class, the dancing sharp and the acting uniformly fine. While we diehards were anticipating the jokes – Sally Brown’s classroom defence of her coathanger sculpture is a classic of the American comic strip – it was apparent many audience members were appreciating the wit and wisdom of Schulz for the first time.

So that’s two Peanuts shows, with different strengths but both hugely entertaining – I bet they’re even cheer up Charlie Brown.

Originally published in The Scotsman