Good grief! The Peanuts crew are coming to the stage
In 1950 Charles M. Schulz introduced the world to a gang of kids in his comic strip Peanuts, including the lovable but hapless Charlie Brown, bossy part-time psychiatrist Lucy, her little bro Linus, grubby Pigpen and Charlie Brown’s self-aware pet beagle Snoopy. Grown-ups were absent in the Peanuts world, but the characters never went Lord of the Flies. Rather, heartstrings were tugged (but not in a maudlin way) and situations were handled with kindness and maturity (or by Lucy making a pithy aside) even when the characters didn’t have a win. Although Peanuts was ostensibly about children, everyone could identify.
The comic strip ran until the day after creator Schulz’s death in 2000. Films were made along the way and a Tony-award-winning musical You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown hit the stage in 1967. Under the direction of Gary Abrahams (Bad Jews, Buyer and Cellar) the family-friendly musical production is getting a run at St Kilda’s Alex Theatre this month.
Actor Cameron McDonald has the weighty task of playing poor Charlie Brown. His favourite character used to be Snoopy, but his views have changed with time. “The older you get and the more you deal with more adult things, the more affinity you have with Charlie and the melancholy he carries with him,” he says. “The gorgeous thing about Charlie is that he’s just been trying forever to have some success and always falls just a little bit short, but he remains so benevolent. Bless him – he’s got so much going on and he’s such a gentleman.
The musical follows Charlie during an average day in his life and all of the Peanuts clan are on hand to help him tackle typical challenges. “He tries to fly a kite and hit a ball in a baseball game,” he says. “They’re small things, but quite eventful for a little kid.”
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