Snoopy!!!: See You in the Funny Papers

Local Arts Reviews

Exhibitionism

Snoopy!!!: See You in the Funny Papers

Dougherty Arts Center,

through April 1

Running time: 1 hr, 35 min

Is there a better-known comic strip than Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts? And is there a more famous dog than Snoopy? Watching this neat and happy Second Youth Family Theatre production of Snoopy!!! is like paging through a random helping of funnies that offers a "best of" compilation from the philosophically comic genius of Schulz. Add more than a dozen songs, at least as clever as the comic schtick, and you have yourself an easygoing, good-natured musical that, as advertised, is theatre fun for the whole family.

Director G'Ann Boyd stages a clean play, with attention to such Peanuts details as the no-arm-movement skip-walk, the slightly non-sequiturial razzing of perennial chump Good Ol' Charlie Brown, the flight-challenged flitting of bird-sidekick Woodstock, and all the dinner bowls, "wah-wah"-voiced teachers, and five-cent doctor advice an audience can handle. Cheryl Borden's choreography is equally smart and crisp, offering nonstop service to creatively complement the show's many musical numbers (and it is Borden who plays the silent, smiling yellow bird).

As Snoopy, Huck Huckaby is cool and wry, commenting on the youngsters' follies or flying off on one of his staple fancies: "The Great Writer" is a musical version of Snoopy's penning "It was a dark and stormy night. ..." There are other familiar bits, turned into song: There is Shane Breaux as Linus, singing and waiting for the Great Pumpkin; Nick Walker as Charlie Brown giving lyrical reminiscence to that time long ago when he once held mastery over a certain innocent beagle puppy; Esperanza Biehle as Peppermint Patty singing a slightly out-of-character lullaby to Chuck, who wants his dream girl to call him her "Poor Sweet Baby." There are group numbers that illuminate the kids' daily existences: "Edgar Allan Poe" takes on the misery of the classroom, highlighted by Victoria Phillips' Sally making meaninglessly meaningful reports and the strong-voiced Elena Coates' Lucy expressing her fear of not knowing the answers (even while brother Linus seems a compendium of data). The women in the cast sound like they have broader vocal range than the men, but musical director Jonathan Borden has these young actors all rising to the musical task quite nicely.

There is no story to this musical; cut it up and reorder the scenes and it would be just as good, just the same. Of course, without anything more compelling than the next joke or bit of business, there are times when the gags and dialogue are just a little too similar, and then the show borders on the stale -- how much of a good thing is too much? But the high-energy, audience-friendly cast (how lovely to walk out with the kids and meet the characters in the lobby, to say hello or chat about the show) smoothly retrieves any lost attentions with its brightness, playfulness, and genuine enthusiasm for performing.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Charles M. Schulz, Peanuts, Second Youth Family Theatre, Snoopy!!!, G'Ann Boyd, Cheryl Borden, Huck Huckaby, Shane Breaux, Nick Walker, Esperanza Biehle, Victoria Phillips, Elena Coates, Jonathan Borden

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