It always seems to me that the Peanuts gang become even more present this time of year.
|The gang is back on the big screen, after a|
35 year absence. This time they're in
3-D. I haven't seen this one, but the idea of
these folks reaching out of the screen to
touch me is a little frightening.
There are also two Thanksgiving specials, The Great Pumpkin for Halloween, and at least three (!) additional Christmas specials starring our gang. This year, a new feature film has been released as well.
|There are two musicals actually created for the stage featuring the Peanuts gang, but the success of A Charlie Brown Christmas on TV was so huge that theaters can now license it as a stage show.|
The story goes that composer/lyricist Clark Gesner grew tired of writing music for Captain Kangaroo and, in the early 60s, penned a series of songs based on the Peanuts characters. He had no luck getting the rights to perform these ditties from the company in charge of syndicating the Peanuts comic strip, so eventually he leapfrogged those losers and sent his music to Charles Schultz himself. Sparky gave his blessing for a concept album to be produced. It was a bit later that a stage production was planned, which opened in 1967 Off-Broadway in New York.
That first production was a success story, running a whopping 1,947 performances (that's almost four years). The critics loved the simplicity of the show, which is really a series of gently comical vignettes featuring characters we already know. The adult cast played with the openness and innocence of children, and not a hint of irony.
|Some scenes from Off-Broadway.|
Despite endless tinkering, expanding, and crossing of media, the original Off-Broadway production remains the most successful version of You're a Good Man Charlie Brown. A few months after the Off-Broadway production closed, the show re-opened on Broadway, with a new cast, a bigger orchestra, and a more lavish set. The thing sank under the weight of all those changes, and closed after 32 performances.
My first introduction to this little musical came in 1973, when I saw a TV version produced for the Hallmark Hall of Fame. This was not the musical's only TV adaptation; in 1985, the decision was made to actually animate the musical with the cartoon characters which had become so recognizable to the general public. (CBS also produced an animated version of the sequel to You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown: Snoopy! The Musical.)
This week's Dance Party doesn't come from any of these productions. Instead, it comes from the most recent Broadway revival, which ran about 4 months in 1999.
|If it weren't for this snow tasting scene in the Christmas show, nobody would remember Patty, an early Peanuts character who was included in the original Off-Broadway YAGMCB. She's now long gone.|
|The 1999 Broadway revival of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown was stolen by these two. Roger Bart as Snoopy and Kristin Chenoweth as Sally snagged all the good reviews and the only Tonys the production won.|