‘Peanuts’ Gallery

Enjoyable, though uneven, Charlie Brown plays in Novato.

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Several classic ‘Peanuts’ bits, like Lucy’s psychiatrist booth, come to life at Novato Theater Company. Credit: Fred Deneau

You won’t find Clark Gesner’s You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown in the pantheon of great American musicals. What began as a concept album in 1966 soon transmogrified into a very successful off-Broadway show that never really cut it on Broadway.

Nevertheless, its simple staging and audience familiarity with the source material have made it a staple of community theaters. The Novato Theater Company brings it to their stage in a Michael Ross-directed production that runs through April 28.

There’s no plot to speak of, just a series of vignettes featuring the beloved characters from the Charles Schulz strip. The daily tribulations of Charlie Brown (Robert Nelson), Linus (Lorenzo Alviso), Lucy (Tika Moon), Sally (Julianne Thompson Bretan), Schroeder (Paul Hogarth), and Snoopy (Jake Gale) are set to Gesner’s pleasant but mostly unmemorable music and lyrics.

The musical covers familiar “Peanuts” territory with bits like Charlie Brown’s pining for the little redheaded girl, Linus’s blanket and Lucy’s psychiatrist booth.

Ross’s cast is uneven. Nelson, a usually reliable musical-comedy performer, misses the mark as Charlie Brown, coming off as more of a whiner than the melancholy, gentle-hearted character we’ve come to know. Moon needs to find more variation in her delivery for Lucy.

Alviso hits the mark as the philosophical Linus, whose asides are a frequent source of amusement. Hogarth has fun with “Beethoven Day”—one of the show’s better musical numbers—and Thompson Bretan makes for a feisty Sally. Gale, whose take on Snoopy as the smartest “person” in the room is an interesting one, delivers the show’s high point with his spirited delivery of “Suppertime.”

The simple, functional set by Michael Walraven gets a lift from the enormously colorful scenic artistry of Kristy Arroyo.

Affection for Schulz’s creation aside, in the end You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is as two-dimensional as one of the strips.

’You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’ runs Friday–Sunday through April 28 at the Novato Theater Company, 5420 Nave Drive, Ste. C, Novato. Friday–Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm. $18–$30. 415.883.4498. novatotheatercompany.org.

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