One of the things that has made Charles Schultz's Peanuts comic strips and characters so popular over the past 60 years is that we all have a bit of Charlie Brown in us, and Lucy, and Snoopy, and Linus, and Sally, and Schroeder (and Pig Pen for that matter).
This universal quality is on display in the 1960s musical, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown. The Bloomington Civic Theatre brings the characters to life starting this weekend, under the direction of Flying-Foot-Forum's Joe Chvala, who also choreographs the piece.
"I was a big fan of the Peanuts growing up. I liked the adult quality of it; of these kids with adult concerns," says Chvala, who played Charlie Brown in a high-school production. "Now coming back to it, it is very nostalgic for me. The comics are so simple, truthful, and earnest, without being snide or having any of that 'wink, wink, nudge, nudge' quality that so many cartoons have today. It still appeals to kids and adults. There's a kindness to it, along with the sharp observations about how people are."
Bloomington Civic Theatre, where the director previously helmed The Light of the Piazza and Into the Woods, will present the 1999 remount of the musical, which swaps out Patty for Charlie Brown's sister Sally. The music has been rearranged for a slightly larger group and has more of a pop-rock feel to it.
The new version also adds several songs. Sally gets "My New Philosophy." "It's fun because it is so stupid," Chvala says. "It's all 'No!' and 'I can't stand it!' It's a string of negative ideas that smartly capture her personality."
Music-loving Schroeder gets a tune as well, "Beethoven Day," so all six of the characters -- the show also includes Linus, Lucy, and Snoopy -- have their own song. Other changes have been made to tighten the action. At the end of the first act, there are segments about chasing rabbits and writing a book report. The two moments are now intertwined, with the most carefree of the characters, Sally and Snoopy, off in their fantasy world while the other four are trying to write book reports, showing that they are slowly starting to slip into more mature concerns.
"I have a great cast, and I feel like they were made to play these roles," Chvala says. "They quickly got to where they are now. They all love the comic strip, and these were roles that they really wanted."
The always-busy Chvala isn't resting on his laurels as this show goes up either. He's working with students at the St. Paul Conservatory of the Arts on a part of Flying Foot Forum's upcoming adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. That ensemble celebrates its 20th anniversary in March with a special program at the Cowles Center, with music provided by the New Standards.
As for You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Chvala hopes audiences "will be delighted and entertained. It's a very moving little piece, and I'm hoping they get a chance to appreciate the characters and the comic strips."
IF YOU GO
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
Bloomington Theatre and Art Center 1800 W. Old Shakopee Road, Bloomington
Friday through February 12
For tickets and info, call 952.563.8575 or visit online.