Vivienne St. John had no idea there were so many Peanuts fans in Houston. Then, Main Street Theater produced A Charlie Brown Christmas a year and a half ago.
“It was a huge hit,” says the company's Theater for Youth producing director, “and when we surveyed audiences about what they wanted to see, more Charlie Brown was the biggest response.”
This summer should be a wish come true, then, as Main Street Theater for Youth presents You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. The company is presenting the 1999 revival of the musical, the story a series of moments in the life of the beloved Charles M. Schulz character. The audiences follows Charlie Brown, his sister Sally, Lucy and Linus Van Pelt, Schroeder, and Snoopy through Valentine’s Day and baseball season, in all their ups and downs.
“Most of our programming is centered around books,” explains St. John. “So, this felt at first like an odd choice. But there are a ton of Charlie Brown books, and what we really want is to inspire children to read, whether it’s a graphic novel or a comic book or a paperback.”
The musical, of course, is based on the classic comic strip. The original production premiered on Broadway in 1967, and the 1999 revival added two new songs to the dozen originals. It captures the personalities of all the Peanuts characters, from Snoopy’s wild flights of fancy as the World War I Flying Ace or a stalking jungle cat, to Lucy’s unrequited love for pianist Schroeder (who only has eyes for Beethoven, it would seem), to Linus’s love of his blanket. Through it all, Charlie Brown pines for the Little Redheaded Girl, and tries to navigate the world with its despair and joys.
“It’s really family-friendly,” St. John says of the musical, which plays during the week for summer camps, but has shows on the weekends that are open to the public. “What’s great about it is that both younger kids and older ones will find elements of the story that resonate.”
The musical offers as much bounce and color as the comic strip, laced with Schulz’s wit. With a running time of 90 minutes, it should prove a terrific option for families seeking an alternative to summer movies. Mostly, though, St. John stresses, it’s just a flat-out good show.
“It’s summer,” she says. “You want something light, but this is also silly and engaging.”
June 11–July 18. Tickets from $18. MATCH, 3400 Main St. 713-524-6706. More info and tickets at mainstreettheater.com.