A program note says that the time of the action is "an average day in the life of Charlie Brown." It really is just that, a day made up of little moments picked from all the days of Charlie Brown, from Valentine's Day to the baseball season, from wild optimism to utter despair, all mixed in with the lives of his friends (both human and non-human) and strung together on the string of a single day, from bright uncertain morning to hopeful starlit evening.
It seems to start off all right. After some brief comments on the nature of his character by his friends, Charlie Brown is swept into their center by a rousing tribute of only slightly qualified praise, in the song You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. He is then left to his own musings as he eats his lunch on the school playground, complicated unbearably by the distant presence of his true love, the "little redheaded girl," who is always just out of sight.
True love also seems to be the only unmanageable element in Lucy's solid life, which we discover as we watch her try to bulldoze her way through to her boyfriend's sensitive, six-year-old musician's heart, in Schroeder. The little scenes then begin to accumulate, and we learn that Lucy's little brother, Linus, is thoughtful about many things but fanatical when it comes to the matter of his blanket; that Charlie Brown's dog spends much if not most of his time thinking of being something else -- a gorilla, a jungle cat, perhaps a handsome trophy or two -- but that mostly his life is a pleasant one -- Snoopy.
The events continue to trickle on. Linus enjoys private time with his most favorite thing of all -- My Blanket and Me, Lucy generously bothers to inform him of her ambition-of-the-moment, to become a queen with her won queendom, and the Charlie Brown lurches in for still another bout with his own friendly enemy -- The Kite.
Valentine's Day comes and goes with our hero receiving not one single valentine, which brings him to seek the temporary relief of Lucy's five-cent psychiatry booth -- The Doctor Is In.
We then watch as four of our friends go through their individual struggles with the homework assignment of writing a hundred word essay of "Peter Rabbit" in The Book Report.
Act Two roars in with Snoopy lost in another world atop his dog house. As a World War One flying ace he does not bring down the infamous Red Baron in today's battle but we know that someday, someday he will.
The day continues. We learn of the chaotic events of the Very Little League's Baseball Game as Charlie Brown writes the news to his pen pal. Lucy is loved to conduct a personal survey to find out just how crabby she really is, and all the group gathers for a misbegotten rehearsal of a song they are to sing in assembly.
It is suppertime, and Snoopy once more discovers what wild raptures just the mere presence of his full supper dish can send him into. And then it is evening. The gathered friends sing a little about their individual thoughts of happiness and then they go off, leaving Lucy to make a very un-Lucy-like gesture: she tells Charlie Brown what a good man he is.
None of the cast is actually six years old. And they don't really look like Charles Schulz' "Peanuts" cartoon characters. But this doesn't seem to make that much difference once we are into the play, because what they are saying to each other is with the openness of that early childhood time, and the obvious fact is that they are all really quite fond of each other.
What is the difference between the original version of the show and this revised version?
In 1998 the authors and producers of the original 1967 musical show, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, decided it was time for a major revival of the work in a Broadway theatre. The idiomatic, intimate innocence of the characters that is presented in the original stage production has been maintained, but a new perspective has been added by emphasizing the insatiable insouciance of the characters that was held in check in the original. The new cast of six characters includes Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, Snoopy and Sally Brown (she replaces Patty.)
The original twelve songs all remain in this version, and two new songs: Beethoven Days (Schroeder & Company) and My New Philosophy (Sally with Schroeder) have been added. The two melodramas, Lucy's Queen Lucy and Snoopy's Red Baron, retain their spoken dialogue but have completely new underscoring music. The pantomime Rabbit Chasing has an entirely new musical score. All the music and dialogue for the show has been reworked; it is not just the same thing with two new songs. All the show's incidental music, dance music, vocal arrangements and orchestrations are brand new. The signature simple waltz tune (instrumental only, never sung), used to open the original show and as a musical bridge between scenes is the only music from the original that is not used in the revised version. Instead, all the incidental musical bridge passages now relate to the characters and the principal songs associated with them. And there are 465 more measures of music in this version. The entire show looks and sounds newly minted.
This version has an entirely new sound, musically distinct from the original. It is true theatre chamber music at its most inventive, orchestrated for an ensemble of five players. The orchestrations move the feeling of the work from the intimate parlor setting of the original version, into the more public arena of the theatre proper, while maintaining the basic charm of the original music. Adding bass and percussion to the piano has broadened the rhythmic pulse of the music and sharpened its edge. These instruments also allow room for a more flexible and overtly dramatic underscoring of the staging of the musical numbers. The two solo lines of the orchestration, woodwind and string, bring wonderful shades of color and texture to the sound. The string part is for viola doubling on violin, the wind part is for one player principally doubling flute, clarinet and alto saxophone. All five players double on several instruments which significantly widens the palette of color available in the orchestration. At one point (in Snoopy's song Snoopy) all the players are asked to perform a brief passage on Kazoos!
Because the new songs, new orchestrations and new vocal and musical arrangements are substantially different from the original, a new Piano-Conductor's Score has been written and computer-engraved. This new score is complete with all the new vocal arrangements and a piano-reduction of the new accompanying orchestration. It captures the rhythmic vitality of the new orchestrations and all the important melodic lines. This Piano-Conductor's Score can serve as the only accompanying instrument for both rehearsals and performances when the chamber ensemble is not available. The show may be performed successfully with piano accompaniment only.