As part of the American High School Theatre Festival at Church Hill Studio Theatre in Bruntsfield, Van Buren High School brought to life the colourful and well-loved characters from the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schultz.
Set on a simple stage, Charlie Brown, Linus, Sally, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Woodstock and the philosophising dog Snoopy present a shortened version to suit the Fringe. A series of vignettes play out, though no storyline threads through the different sections. Once I’d cottoned on to this it became easier to follow. The audience included a wide age-group of children but some of the humour and references were clearly aimed at a more mature group. Eleanor, 12, pointed out, “Some of the jokes were for older people but most of it was for quite young people.” And therein lies the problem of the show itself: it’s a tricky one to set suitability. And disappointingly only a couple of the songs bore any resemblance to the beautiful original cartoon score by Vince Guaraldi which just felt wrong.
The cast certainly gave it their all. The ensemble pieces were sung with gusto. Brandon Jeremiah in the role of Charlie Brown was enthusiastic and gained quite a few fans in the audience. Theodore aged six said, “I like the one with the zig zag on his top,” and Dominic aged seven agreed enthusiastically. Heather Tankersley played Peppermint Patty with the cutting sarcasm of Lesley Winkle from The Big Bang Theory. It is unclear whether Linus was played by Jonathan Warren or Ricky Salamanca for this particular performance but I hope he felt more confident as the run progressed. Alex Gladden as Sally could make her diction a little clearer for an audience whose ears are not attuned to her accent. The same could be said for Jessye King’s Snoopy but she did play the laid back dog with sufficient cool. The shining light came in the form of Coralee Young whose immense voice was wasted as Lucy. Right at the end, in a moment of pure comic genius, smallest member of the troupe, John-Michael Fisher, ripped off his Woodstock hood with a humph of defiance and stomped off stage, thoroughly stealing the show.
In front of me, Daniel aged three, loved it so much he tried to get on stage. A bit of a Marmite show, it seemed to divide the young audience. But even with tickets at five pounds and this being a rainy Sunday, there are plenty of better children’s shows to see - although this is due to the choice of production rather than the ability of the cast.