I did Charlie Brown in high school, and it was by far the worst theatrical experience I've ever had. Lots of in-fighting, hurt feelings, and histrionic high-school drama. I was hoping to redeem that awful experience when a classmate directed the show in college, but [sigh] I wasn't cast. Fortunately, in the early '90s, I directed the show at a local high school, and it was actually a really great experience.
Despite the ups and downs, I still love the show itself. I'm sure part of it is because of my affection for the Peanuts comic strip itself, but I also love the sweet, tuneful simplicity of Clark Gesner's songs, and the wry wit of the Charles Schulz vignettes that form the spine of the show. The 1999 Broadway revival of You're a Good Man Charlie Brown left me cold, mostly because it was trying to jazz things up and expand the show, and seemed to lose sight of what made the show appealing in the first place.
I would love to track down a copy of the 1975 Hallmark Hall of Fame broadcast of the show. (Anyone?) But in the meantime, we have the 1985 animated special, which was recently released on DVD. I remember watching it at the time and being less than impressed, but when I popped the DVD in last night, I was thoroughly delighted. The special has the polished look and feel of the 1970s Charlie Brown specials, as opposed to some of the later specials that seemed a bit slapdash.
Because it needed to fit into an hour-long TV slot, the show has been cut down quite a bit, removing some rather fun numbers, such as Linus's "My Blanket and Me" and Snoopy's "The Red Baron." But what's left is charming, and very engagingly animated. I actually laughed out loud at some of the clever bits. There was something about seeing the actual Snoopy, as opposed to an adult in a white turtle neck, that made his parts a bit more effective. And including Woodstock, particularly during the song "Snoopy," was an inspired touch.
I may have to dig out the old videos of that Charlie Brown production I directed. But, until I'm able to locate the old VHS tapes, not to mention a VCR to play them on, at least I have this new Charlie Brown DVD to tide me over.