AN APPEALING PRODUCTION OF “SNOOPY !!!”

An Appealing Production of “Snoopy!!!” Rating: ★★★★★

The whole Peanuts gang is appearing on the Eureka Theatre stage through December 15th where 42nd Street Moon Company is presenting a delightful production of “Snoopy !!!”. I have always been a big fan of the Charles M Schulz comic script and I always thought I was a little like Linus growing up in a small town in Ohio. Later I think I identified with “Snoopy”

Peanuts comic strips still appear in the San Francisco Chronicle even though Charles Schulz bid a fond farewell to all his readers in February 2000. Snoopy has to date generated $1 billion in retail sales worldwide and the characters still appear seasonally on television specials such as “Charlie Brown Christmas” Several years I saw the revised “You’re a Good Man Charly Brown” with Kristen Chenowith and B.D.Wong in New York and more recently the Boxcar Theatre production featuring the whole Peanut Gang.

“Snoopy !!!” premiered in December 1975 at the Little Fox Theatre here in San Francisco as a follow up to the 1967 musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”. The sequel still follows the adventures most of the Peanuts gang but centered on Charlie’s captivating and quixotic dog Snoopy. I first saw this production at the Lamb Theatre in New York in 1982 with a cast including Lorna Luft, Vicki Lewis and David Garrison. Two wildly successful London productions also added to the “Snoopy !!!” success story. It ran for 479 performances in the West End at the small jewel box showcase the Duchess Theatre. “Snoopy !!!” is still being performed in various regional and children theatres.

This charming musical take on the well-loved, quirky characters of the Peanuts script appeals to adults as well the children. The musical retains the fast, sharp comic appeal and instantly recognizable characterizations of the line-drawn original. It also overwhelmingly brings the characters to human form by buoying up the sharp scenes with the tuneful, light, bright melodies of composer Larry Grossman and Hal Hackaday’s apt, humorous lyrics. The choreography by Jayne Zaban is necessarily small scale and it is always in character. I was charmed by Janie Burgener vibrant little bird, Woodstock’s dance.

The young cast members sing their songs well under Dave Dobrusky musical direction. Keith Pinto with his red collar and a white long sleeved t-shirt and white trousers becomes Schultz’s eponymous beagle. He becomes a loveable and idiosyncratic puppy before the audience eyes. He has a melodious voice singing his songs about the children expectations that he should “sit up, lie down, roll over and play dead” or singing about his birthplace the puppy farm Daisy Hill. Keith is hilarious singing he classic song “The Big BowWow” a classic of bravado and determination (I’m gonna be a big bow wow/You’re going to see them all kow-tow/Bigger than Rin Tin Tin and Lassie/twice as classy”)

Ian Leonard morphs himself into Charlie Brown and with a euphonious voice sings beautifully “Where Did That Little Dog Go?” Dyan McBride as Lucy and Chloe Condon as Sally Brown is crowd pleasing in their roles. Both have vibrant voices singing their songs. Ashley Rae Little gives a marvelous portrayal of Peppermint Patty and Kyle Stoner gives a heartfelt performance as Linus with the ever present blanket and is pitch-perfect singing “The Vigil” as he waiting in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Big Pumpkin to appear.

Hector Zavala’s set is simplicity itself, a red kennel in the center of the stage and the costumes by Felicia Lilienthal are accurate and recognizable from the cartoons.

“Snoopy !!!” runs through December 15th at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-255-8207 or on line at www.42ndStMoon.org Coming up next will be an original musical “Painting the Clouds with Sunshine” with Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen, Richard Whiting, Yip Harburg, Ralph Rainger, Johnny Mercer, Harry Warren, Cole Porter and others and book by Greg MacKellan and Mark D. Kaufmann opening on April 2 and running through April 20. This will be followed by Cole Porter’s “Du Barry was a Lady” starring Bruce Vilanch in the Burt Lahr role opening on April 30 and running through May 18th.