There is nothing more unfortunate than being an underdog.
Look no further than the beloved Peanuts cartoon character Charlie Brown, who probably knows how that feels like.
But there is more to Charlie Brown than just rain clouds.
In the musical comedy You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown in 1967, Charlie Brown once famously said: “I think lunchtime is about the worst time of the day for me. Always having to sit here alone. Of course, sometimes, mornings aren’t so pleasant either. Waking up and wondering if anyone would really miss me if I never got out of bed.”
Of course, Charlie Brown is just six years old. Such childish theatricality can be easily brushed off.
However, Freddy Tan, who is directing an upcoming version of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, says the musical comedy is about a slice of life told through the eyes of children.
“There is an underlying theme which can be more mature,” says Tan.
You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, presented by Klang Valley-based theatre company Sifu Productions, is a 90-minute musical that will run at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPac) from Sept 29 to Oct 8.
Assisting Tan on the directorial front is Chinese theatre actor William Yap. You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, written 50 years ago by composer and songwriter Clark Gesner, is based on the syndicated American comic strip Peanuts, which was written and illustrated by Charles M.Schulz.
At DPac, the You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown cast includes theatre regulars such as Joel Wong, Benjamin Lin, Tria Aziz, Safia Hanifah, Ivan Chan Atienza and newcomer Izen Kong.
The show follows Charlie Brown and his friends as they go through various challenges in life over the course of two days, from completing a book report and not being able to fly a kite to losing a game of baseball. The musical, staying true to the DNA of comic strips, is presented in the form of vignettes.
Tan, 32, says that one of the mature themes highlighted in the musical is depression.
“Charlie Brown actually expresses himself as being depressed. He goes to a booth set up by Lucy to seek psychiatric help or rather a kid’s version of psychiatric help. This scene is quite iconic in the Peanuts comic strip,” says Tan.
Nevertheless, this is not some dark adaptation of a children’s tale. Instead, You’re A
Good Man, Charlie Brown is a family-friendly musical, bursting with colours, outlandish and fun characters, replete with catchy numbers.
But thanks to Gesner’s masterful writing, the show has something to offer to both children and adults.
“For instance, when we look at matters pertaining to depression or the obstacles that Charlie Brown faces, the kids can gravitate towards the humour but the adults might be reminded of something similar they’ve experienced in life when they were younger,” explains Tan.
Wong, who plays the titular role, says one of the things that truly resonates with him is the theme of finding “happiness through the hardships in life and accepting the situation for what it is”.
The 32-year-old, who works as a graphic designer, says as unlucky as Charlie Brown might be, the character is “still a tenacious guy”.
“Despite the bad stuff that’s happening to him, Charlie Brown still carries on and manages to find a smile at the end of the day,” says Wong, who has acted in musicals such as Marrying Me (2013), Merrily We Roll Along (2014) and Pan Productions’ Into The Woods last year.
Of course, with such iconic characters and an all-too-familiar comic strip upon which the musical is based on, comes the unenviable pressure of maintaining the purity and sanctity of the source material.
Lin, who plays sidekick Snoopy, is wary of the expectations attached to such a familiar character.
“How do you translate this iconic comic strip on stage? When you read the comics, you wouldn’t really see how the characters actually move and talk. But since it is being presented in a musical form, we have to translate that.”
Safia, who plays the crabby Lucy, agrees that the writing helped her in playing her character.
“Lucy says pretty much the same things I said when growing up. I would just say things without any filter,” recalls Safia, who is also the musical’s executive producer.
“Lucy is often misinterpreted as a meanie but her intentions are pure and good,” she adds.
The take-home message, according to Tan, is a simple one.
“In the end, you do not need to succeed in everything in order to be happy,” says Tan.
You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown plays at the Theatre, Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC), Empire Damansara, Jalan PJU 8/8, Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya in Selangor from Sept 29 till Oct 8. Shows start at 8.30pm, weekend matinees at 3pm. Tickets are priced at RM138, RM188 and RM258. For more info, call 03-4065 0001 or 013-394 9451 (Siti Farrah). Book tickets: www.dpac.com.my. FB: Sifu Productions.