You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown – Hills Musical Company – Stirling Community Theatre – 2015 – 4K

By Tom Eckert


Heading into The Hills Musical Company’s rendition of Clark Gesner’s 1967 musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”, I personally can’t help but be nervous about small cast productions. Whilst logistically they may be somewhat easier, on the flipside it only takes a single element to pull the entire production down.

I need not have had these anxieties for this production, from the first beat until the bows. it was tight with every element more than holding its own.

The characters are a delight, for the large part every moment and gesture was studied; creating a playful effect of adults-playing-children-playing-adults. Having adult actors playing child characters can so often be a trap for the inexperienced, so far removed from their own childhood that they resort to melodrama and puerile stereotypes. Each character was measured well in both physicality and vocal character with the only slip being to occasionally fall into the trap of the child actor of appearing not to know what to do with their hands during extended dialogue.

The setting, relying largely on graphics derived from the original Peanuts comics was stylistic and effective. A set of multifaceted blocks with concurrent designs were employed to great effect to imply setting as well as providing materials for interactions during set pieces. The juxtaposition of the black and white illustrations and the vibrancy and colour of the actors produced a wonderful comic-coming-to-life effect with the sensation of the original characters leaping out from the page at you. This was only enhanced by the sheer energy of the cast aptly reminiscent of the effervescence and awe of a child which only began to wane a little towards the end of the second act which is admirable as anyone who looks after children would know the Olympian efforts it takes to keep up with them for any extended period of time.

Vocally all actors were competent, never appearing to struggle with range or timing. My only qualms are that at times, in some cases, character was dropped a touch in the interest of vocal technique; or conversely, some preserving vocal character to the detriment of intonation and intelligibility. The latter was especially noticeable in the maintenance of the accent where the voice would be pulled back through the nose resulting in some of the held notes projecting a touch flat.

The orchestra too put on a strong performance, notably not falling prey to the foibles so common in community theatre orchestras of intonation issues and imbalance. A well adjusted and precise compliment to the vocalists, my only request would be to have a touch more forte in some of the shout sections and dance breaks where I think they could afford to cut loose a little to provide some contrast from the rest of the measured and pleasantly restrained accompaniment.

A stand-out would have to be Millicent Sarre as Sally Brown. Her prowess is evident with not so much as an instant out of character. She shows off vocal dexterity and proficiency as well as an impressive athleticism which, whilst flashy, is appreciated in the context of the tongue-in-cheek tone of the entire piece.

Buddy Dawson’s Linus van Pelt has an almost flawless vocal character and comic timing with the only shame being a tendency to get tongue tied around his affected lisp in some of the more rapid-fire monologue moments. This deprived the audience of some brilliant lines that, on the occasion they were perfectly intelligible, were executed to hilarious effect.

Vanessa Redmond’s choreography was strong and used the stage and set to full effect whilst, importantly, detracting nothing from the singing.

Peter Johns as the music director obviously worked exceptionally well with his cast producing delightfully tight harmonies and a balance to compete with professional productions.

Hayley Horton as director was brilliant with not a single beat dropped in stage direction, creating an environment of controlled chaotic energy that wonderfully emulated the daily experience of the child interposed with delightfully solitary moments to highlight young Charlie Brown’s existential angst.

A wonderful production with a wonderful cast. If you like your entertainment light and witty come to see it up in the Stirling Community Theatre, sit back and let yourself regress back to happier days.


Kryztoff rating: 4K

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