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A CurtainUp Review
Snoopy the Musical
Arthur Whitelaw approached composer Larry Grossman and lyricist Hal Hackady to write a follow up to the earlier Schultz musical, which he felt had only scratched the surface of the available material. In 1985, a production of Snoopy the Musical, which had been much revised after its New York showing of three years earlier, came to the Duchess Theatre in London and ran for 479 performances. Having seen the current production of Snoopy the Musical I can see why it attracted an ongoing audience.
Take a tall lanky boy with a wry look, give him a red collar and a white long sleeved t-shirt, white fingerless gloves and white trousers and a great director and he becomes Schultz's eponymous beagle. Whether he is clambering on to his red kennel or sprawled inside it, he is a loveable and quirky puppy. His songs, complaining about the children's expectations that he should "sit up, lie down, roll over play dead or fetch a stick" or wistfully thinking about his birthplace the puppy farm Daisy Hill, and why his mother never contacts him, have that blend of self interest, sadness and philosophy we have come to associate with Schultz's character.
The music is accessible and tuneful without any sense of derivation but the lyrics are wonderful. Snoopy's big number in the all too short second half of the show, "The Big BowBow" is a classic of bravado and ambition. "I'm gonna be a big bow wow/You're going to see them all kow-tow/Bigger than Rin Tin Tin and Lassie/ . . . . and twice as classy" Whilst the choreography is necessarily small scale, it is always in character and I was charmed by Alice Chilver's vibrant little bird, Woodstock's dance. Joseph Pitcher, the director has nurtured this production from The Rosemary Branch, Islington's pub theatre, initially directing and playing Charlie Brown himself. The set is simplicity itself, a red kennel but the costumes are accurate and recognisable from the cartoons.
The children are played by adults. All are good singers. Cassidy Janson is an "in yer face" Peppermint Patty and belts out her songs, Sarah Lark is a diminutive Lucy and Gemma Maclean as Sally Brown is a typical blonde, not very bright but with lots of attention to clothes and hair, looking like Julie Andrews. Of the boys, Neil Gordon-Taylor has a difficult role to play both as an adult cast as little boy yet conveying Charlie Brown's languor. Stuart Piper, as Linus with the ever present blanket does impart the "cry baby" well. But for me, the star is Stephen Carlile's Snoopy, that interesting mix of being both a participator and an impassioned observer. Whether it is a resigned facial expression or enthusiastic body language puppy limbs, Stephen Carlile has the measure of the egocentric beagle. He illuminated my dog day.
Snoopy the Musical has only a two week slot at Jermyn Street but this production deserves to find a longer run somewhere and I am confident that it will. LINK to Curtain Up's review of the earlier musical based on Charles M Schultz's cartoon Peanuts
You're a Good Man Charlie Brown