Copyright 1998 The Detroit News, Inc.
The Detroit News
December 18, 1998, Friday
SECTION: Weekend; Pg. Pg. D4

You'll find the playful 'Charlie' a bit familiar

 By Michael H. Margolin / Special to The Detroit News

DETROIT -- The revival of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which opened Wednesday at the Fisher Theatre, is about funny-looking kids. Their portraits are hung on stage as the actors who play them come on singing the title song. The actors are adults -- even the one playing the dog -- but seem very childlike.

So. Nothing very important happens on stage, though as one of the kids, Sally, says, dropping her ice-cream cone is like living a Shakespearean tragedy.

Everyday things are really somehow terribly important when they happen to you, and living through one day -- the show could be called A Day in the Life of Charlie Brown and Friends ... and Relatives ... and Dog Snoopy -- is a kind of triumph. Each of the characters has an identifiable trait: Sally is bossy. Lucy is crabby. Linus is adaptive. Snoopy is imaginative. And so on. Charlie Brown is semiwise, almost heroic -- he survives our lives lived out as his own -- and is also depressed. They are all, also, cute. Who among us wouldn't like, like Charlie, to be cutely rather than acutely depressed?

Maybe a good show like Y.A.G.M.C.B., stopping here on its way to Broadway, is the best medicine. The kids in Wednesday night's audience loved it. So did their parents. The rest of us giggled and guffawed and saw our shadow flit fitfully on the stage among the Crayola-bright sets, costumes and lights by artists with a knowing eye: David Gallo, Michael Krass and Kenneth Posner.

The songs are fun to hear. And easy to understand. A new one for this revival is by music supervisor and Oak Park native Andrew Lippa, and it's clever. As Schroeder would say, "sophisticated without being pretentious."

There are some real star turns, such as Roger Bart as Snoopy. He's better than cute -- performances like this get Tony awards in New York. Everyone is swell, actually, though B.D. Wong as Linus is one of the swellest, and Anthony Rapp is so C.B. that he erases the memory of himself as Mark in Rent on Broadway.

Michael Mayer is the director. It might be said that he's in touch with his child, and that he has updated the show very nicely.

Good grief, it's a dandy show, Michael Mayer.

Michael H. Margolin is a Detroit free-lance writer and critic.

Stage Review

'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown'

Fisher Theatre, W. Grand Blvd. at Second, Detroit

Through Dec. 27

Tickets $ 26.50-$ 49

Call (248) 645-6666

* * * [Hearty cheers]

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