I've just returned from watching the preview night of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," a musical produced by 9 Works Theatricals based on the well-loved comic strip "Peanuts" by Charles Schulz.
SO NOT A CARTOON FAN
Frankly, I had my misgivings about setting tonight aside to watch this musical, which runs from February 11 to March 3 at the Carlos Romulo Auditorium of RCBC Plaza in Makati. For one thing, I'm not a cartoon fan in general, even if I do appreciate Charles Schulz's witty one-liners and rebuttals and the concept of rephrasing life's reality through the words, actions and experiences of a group of neighborhood children. It's ironic and yet clever and amusing.
So I was prepared to be mildly entertained at best by the show tonight. What a nice surprise, then, to realize at the end that I thoroughly enjoyed the show, appreciated the production and the great acting, and I really like the musical performances.
Apparently I wasn't alone either, as the entire auditorium -- which included a couple of kids and even a three-year-old who wanted to watch the show again sometime -- was either laughing, giggling or clapping every few minutes. It wasn't Charles Schulz's witty one-liners alone that were bringing the house down either; the deliveries of the actors was excellent, making me realize for the nth time just how talented Filipinos are in the field of theater.
Robbie Guevara, who is the artistic director of 9 Works, played the lead role of Charlie Brown, and I loved the way he seesawed between innocent, petulant, sad, bossy, sentimental and just plain endearing. If his name sounds familiar, that's because he's starred in various major productions recently. He plays Uncle Max in The Sound of Music.
My other two favorites were Lorenz Martinez in the role of Snoopy, Charlie Brown's dog who does everything including sing for his dinner, and Franco Laurel as Linus. One of the highlights of the show, for me, was Snoopy's very versatile song-and-dance act about dinner. This certainly brought the house down. Again, Lorenz is another performer doing a double act these days, as he also plays Herr Keller in the Sound of Music.
I wondered about how and why so many key Sound of Music performers were going on stage for Charlie Brown. How on earth do they juggle these two plays, I thought to myself, and why on earth do they do it? It makes sense to focus on only one performance, of course. Then I realized that The Sound of Music is actually on an extended run, and so these performers had committed to Charlie Brown way before they even knew that Sound of Music would be extended.
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Finally -- and I say this only because all the perfumers were truly very good, but I do have to pick some favorites -- I liked Franco Laurel in Linus. Of course he has an excellent voice for performing; but he also undertook the characterization of Linus very well, as the smart but often pushed-around babyish younger brother of a very bossy sister.
I've known Franco for a very long time although sadly -- and this is mostly my fault perhaps, for being so bad at keeping in touch with people who don't live in the same few square kilometers anymore -- we haven't been in touch for years. But there was a time that he was a college student in Japan and we hung out together. It was nice having a "younger brother" in a big and rather intimidating city like Tokyo. Even then he already had a fantastic voice and also great performance skills.
I was then working as the Foreign Information Officer of the Philippine government in Japan -- basically I was the PR person for the government, and what a great job that was for a young person in a First World country at the height of its bubble economy -- and I often had pretty important Japanese personalities and diplomats from other countries over to my home for dinner. For some of these dinners, I would invite Franco to sing a few songs as a PR gesture to promote the Philippines, and he always so kindly agreed. Needless to say, everyone was enthralled and I knew even then that he would go very far in the entertainment industry if he wanted to do so.
The girls in the musical were very entertaining as well although it was the character of the boys that I personally found so versatile and interesting. At the end of the musical, everyone sat around and Christopher de Venecia, who is the assistant director at 9 Works and a wonderful and talented performer himself, fielded questions from the audience. By the way, Christopher de Venecia will be playing the role of Linus on February 25.
"Where did you find the inspiration to undertake your character?" was a question asked very often of everyone.
"I have a nine-year-old daughter and I often imagined how I would react to her if I was her age," replied Franco, while someone else said: "I just tried to remember what my childhood was like and how I would have acted then."
SMART AND FUNNY
"You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" is light, short and funny; and at the same time filled with great songs and the kind of banter smart people like. Just before starting this blog as well, I went on You Tube to see other versions of this musical and particularly of the song "Happiness" which gets sung at the end. This musical has had many runs all over the world, after all, and especially in the States. Well, I didn't see any video clips that would even come close to the production tonight.
Go see it while you can. And bring the kids with you.
Just another wonderful evening in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.
YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN
Produced by 9 Works Theatrical
Tel. 557-5860/ 586-7105
* * *
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