Snoopy at Sunnyvale Community Players
I'm always nit picky when I write about shows I've seen, so let me start off by saying see this show!
It runs Thursdays thru Sundays thru November 20 at the Sunnyvale Theater. 550 E. Remington.
Snoopy is, of course, meant to be a sequel to You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. IMHO it fails resoundingly at this, and not all of that is bad news. Some of it is, though: They left out Schroeder. Linus is made into an intellectual (which is Schroeder's job). Snoopy's personality has been toned down considerably. Here and there the lyrics aren't quite right.
The good news: Peppermint Patty and Sally have much more significant parts, Charlie Brown is even more of a loser than he was before, Lucy is still Lucy.
And the "I'm not sure if it is good or bad" news: The music is much more complex. The good part of that is the music is more fun and challenging for the cast, and more fun for a musically aware adult audience, the bad part , I think, is it detracts from the simplicity of the Peanuts look & feel and makes it harder for the children in the audience to follow.
The cast is brilliant. Matt Tipton as Charlie Brown looks like he was lifted from the comic strip whole. Kaeli Quick made me fall in love with Peppermint Patty. Jessica Wright's Sally was just the right blend of childlike innocence and pure ignorance. Lucy was played by Carli Honfi with a wonderful touch for adding insult to injury - with a laugh and a song and a smile. Andrew Stuart played the new Linus well enough, but I never did get over the fact that most of his words should have been Schroeder's. Stacia Stuart was perhaps a bit too tall for Woodstock, but she added a lot to the nearly silent role with her balletic genius.
And we come to the title role, played by Aaron Weisberg. I am torn. I'm not sure if the part was in the wrong key for him, if he had a cold, or something else because I did not think his singing was quite up there with the rest of the cast. He had lots and lots of moves from the Joe Cool repertoire, but all his choreography was low key. Soft shoe-like tempos, nothing even approaching "Suppertime" or "The Red Baron" from You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. It did not help that his big numbers, "The Great Writer" and "The Big Bow-Wow" fell flat for me - I just didn't like the material. Probably still wouldn't have liked it if it was performed by the original Broadway Snoopy.
The choreography (by Jennifer Vaillancourt) is so good I even liked the dancing in the numbers I didn't like. Costumes (by Sally Rogers) were simple, charming, and as close to perfect as you can get for a bunch of adults playing children. Director Ted Kopulos turned out a well-rehearsed show with a cast who obviously love working together. There were too many bits of staging which took me by surprise, made me smile and/or made me wonder "how did he do that?" to list.
The set, by Master Carpenter Richard Cartwright and artist Jennifer Smith is simple, and true to the comic strip. The very small orchestra (I only heard keyboards and some percussion) was buried deep down in the pit, did their job and did not drown out the un-miked actors.
Speaking of which, this is the first show I have ever been to in community theater where I was able to understand every word of every song sung by every cast member. Well, until they got to the lightning-fast "Don't Be Anything Less Than Everything You Can Be", but that was because the song itself is too busy, and I can't listen as fast as they could sing.
So, the songs. Mostly forgettable. "Where Did That Little Dog Go?", a solo by Charlie Brown, was both poignant and out of place. "Edgar Allan Poe" is a cheap substitute for "Book Report". Peppermint Patty's "Hurry Up Face", about wishing her face would grow to make he nose look smaller, is cute, but in the comic strip she has a cute little nose, so the song didn't work for me on that account. In the comic, Patty refers to Snoopy as the kid with the big nose. Her "Poor Sweet Baby" number near the end of the show is completely out of character as well, but it is sweet and sung superbly, and the stinger at the end almost redeems it. This show's answer to "Happiness" is a tune called "Just One Person", which probably normally rates half a hankie, two when done by this cast with accompanying choreography and staging.
Bottom line for me is the material does not hold a candle to You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, but this production is well worth seeing for the sheer talent.