The always-reliable SEDOS amateur group are having a busy 2024, with three productions already under their talented belts so far this year, and they’re not even halfway through their calendar.  Next up is their production of ‘You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown’, the 1960s hit musical based on the beloved Charles Schulz comic strip featuring the Peanuts gang.  The show takes us back to that beautifully simple time of being a child, and the trivial things we used to worry about, which in later life seem so minor looking back.  

Charlie Brown (played by Rob Kelly) spends a lot of his time alone, counting his shortcomings, and wondering what makes “a good man” when you’re not really exceptional at anything.  He looks around at his friends’ lives and sees them all achieving things, and sets out to find something for himself.  The gang’s all here; Charlie’s squeaky uber-confident sister Sally (Claire Brewin), blanket-dependent worrier Linus (Stephen McLoughlin), Linus’ diva sister Lucy (Natasha Jeffrey), talented Beethoven-wannabe Shroeder (Dan Geller) and, of course, Charlie’s faithful dog Snoopy (David Gregory).  The group navigate their way around the childhood pressures of school and romance, and discover what it is that really makes them all happy.

Schulz’ comic strip provided brief snapshots into these characters’ lives, and this fragmented approach makes for an uneasy transition to the stage, with the very nature of the vignettes making the show feel less satisfying than a more mainstream book musical.  While the short scenes are mostly enjoyable and sometimes charming, some serve little purpose, and there’s nothing to really link them all together.  It feels like flicking through a picture book and only registering flashes of these characters' lives, which may be the format of the famed source material, but that doesn’t mean it’s suited to a piece of theatre.  Clark Gesner’s score (with additions for the 1999 Broadway revival by Andrew Lippa) is composed of largely “character-songs” that work well-enough in the show but aren’t memorable out of context, save for “Suppertime” and “Happiness”, which both feature late in the second act.  


All of this, however, is the way the show is written and meant to be performed, which is no reflection on the efforts of the SEDOS company, who’ve done a fine job of delivering the material.  Directed by Mark Siddall, the show has charm and a lovely intimate feel, the small-scale nature of the show very much suited to amateur productions, and Andrew Laidlaw and Mark Steward’s set design is well-thought-out and used effectively.  SEDOS are also very fortunate to have some really talented performers in their midst, who give some great turns here.  Rob Kelly leads the show wonderfully as an endearing Charlie and really gets the audience on his side from the beginning.  Kelly has an effortless charm about him and really is the heart of the show.  Natasha Jeffrey also puts in a brilliant performance as the petulant Lucy, showing off great comic timing and facial expressions with a lovely voice to boot.  Claire Brewin also stands out as Sally (the role that got Kristin Chenoweth her Tony Award), maintaining a brilliant high-pitched accent throughout and delivering “My New Philosophy” with energy and skill.  And David Gregory is a lot of fun as Snoopy, really expressive with great characterisation, and giving us a show-stopping rendition of “Summertime”.


“You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” isn’t the strongest musical, and those looking for a satisfying narrative journey may be underwhelmed, but the piece does have charm and an enjoyable feeling of nostalgic simplicity to it, and SEDOS have done a solid job delivering it.  The cast out-perform the material and their performances alone make it worth seeing. 

It runs at London’s Bridewell Theatre until Saturday 13th July 2024.


Review: Rob Bartley