If happiness, for some, is yet another revival of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," the new Jess Moody Theatre aims to accommodate. Its production of Clark Gesner's musical is careful, clean--and utterly familiar.
Charles Schultz's cartoon-strip is faithfully reproduced, from snoopy's doghouse to Schroeder's bust of Beethoven--director John Lewis, credited with set and costume design, keeps things simple on the small, tiered stage.
The actors delineate the "Peanuts" characters with varying degrees of success, fighting against the stretch it takes to believe that real adult people, wearing oversize T-shirts and short pants, are actually small round-headed cartoon kids. Two of the cast succeed very well. Peter Marc is an endearing Charlie Brown, always one step behind, bewildered, but not defeated, by a world where nothing seems to go right.
Flip Kobler's Linus, possessor of sweet wisdom ("happiness is tying your shoes for the first time"), sees his world, and his blanket-dependency, clearly.
Lucy, fussbudget supreme and self-important imparter of misinformation, fares less well. Susan Beauregard offers a disappointingly one-note performance, dimension and dialogue lost under layers of noise
Billy Thompson as Snoopy is frustrating on two levels. No matter how likable he is, and how much fun he's having, he's still a big man dressed in sweat pants and shirt, never convincing as a small black-and-white beagle with delusions of grandeur. And efforts to control a powerful singing voice lead to disconcertingly erratic volume levelsl.
Happily, all is under control for the upbeat "Suppertime" number and Thompson, at his most charming, makes the most of it.
(May Keller and Joe Miele, as Peppermint Patty and Schroeder, though pleasant, never seem an integral part of the show.)
Crisp musical accompaniment provided by Mark Webb, Darrel Campbell and Terry Shane is a plus.
Performances continue at the First Baptist Church of van Nuys at 14800 Sherman Way at 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. (818)787-4450).