PERRY — Enjoy a light hearted comical musical of Snoopy!!! at the Heritage Theatre with seven of the beloved characters from the popular comic strip “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz. Directed by Justin “Spot” Beecher and Amber Beecher, Snoopy!!! is a delightful night at the theatre that audiences of all ages can enjoy. This production presents audiences with a rare opportunity to see a show that is not often performed in Utah. In 14 years, this is the first time that UTBA has ever reviewed Snoopy!!! If that doesn’t deserve three exclamation points, nothing on this site does.
With book by Charles M. Schulz (with “creative associates” Warren Lockhart, Arthur Whitelaw, and Michael L. Grace also credited), music by Larry Grossman and lyrics by Hal Hackady, Snoopy!!! first premiered in 1975 as a sequel to the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. However, Snoopy!!! was met with mixed reviews, and (like many sequels) never had the esteem of the original.
As a concept musical, Snoopy!!! does not follow a plotline. Instead, it is a collection of comical vignettes that are seen from the perspective of Snoopy. The play is reminiscent of the Peanuts comic strips, with short interactions, punchlines, and topics like the Great Pumpkin, going to school, and Snoopy writing stories with his typewriter. Those who are familiar with Peanuts will find the nostalgia delightful.
Playing the coolest dog on the block, Tyler Bell’s expressive looks and charm brought the beloved beagle to life. Bell oversees the neighborhood kids from atop a large iconic red doghouse. Moreover, Bell interacts well with Raina Jones, who plays his best friend, the little yellow bird Woodstock. Bell and Jones perform a classic tap number with top hats and canes during the “Big Bow-Wow.” The simple choreography by Justin “Spot” Beecher and Tory Pickett was easy enough for Bell and Jones to successfully do together and served as a tip of the hats to the great vaudeville tap dances of the past.
Sam Bakker played the kindhearted and unlucky Charlie Brown. Bakker sang a heartbreaking and sweet “Where did that Little Dog Go?” as he remembered Snoopy as a puppy. Bakker is melancholy and unsure as he tries to decipher pictures in the clouds in the sky but gives up saying, “I was going to say a horsey and a ducky, but I changed my mind.” Peppermint Patty (played by Rebekah Anderson) joins the main cast, replacing Schroeder after his appearance in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. With a chin length red wig and freckles, Anderson’s portrayal of the tomboy with a crush on Charlie Brown really brought this beloved character to life. As Anderson flirts with “Chuck,” she sings powerfully and optimistically. Charlie Brown declares he wants to be called “Poor Sweet Baby” and to be snuggled, Anderson plays along. And just as things are getting awkward, Anderson pushes Bakker off the block and declares, “Forget it! It will never happen!” And skips off the stage.
Sally Brown (played by Jess Tarbet) was bright and cheerful. Her monologue about getting a C for her coat hanger sculpture was poignant and precise. Tarbet clearly showed that Sally is enamored with Linus (played by Ammon Findlay), as she would look doe-eyed at him throughout the play and try to bat her eyes at him. When Sally tries to get Linus to pay for her admission to the movies and go on a date with her, he clearly does not get the hints and suggests she pay for the person behind her to go with her. To Sally’s dismay, Woodstock is behind her, and Sally does not want to pay for a bird. So, she goes into the movie by herself.
Findlay played the sweet Linus with a childish voice and his unwavering faith in the Great Pumpkin. Findlay showed Linus’s insecurities when his older sister Lucy (played by Audrey Norton) washed his blanket. Pacing around the stage until his blanket is out of the wash, Findlay and Norton have a tug-a-war over the now-clean blanket in true sibling fashion. Norton is appropriately brash and annoying, which definitely describes the character of Lucy. Her perturbed facial expressions and know-it-all attitude are belittling to Charlie Brown as he seeks for help in her Psychiatric Help Booth, which offers no help at all.
Set designer Quinton Gellman created a cheerful and simple line drawing background of white fluffy clouds and green tufts of grass. Snoopy’s red doghouse is at center stage with a ladder to allow Snoopy to get on top of his doghouse throughout the play. There are some movable large blocks painted like children’s alphabet blocks and a few simple props, making the stage is clean and uncluttered. The set reflects the uncomplicated style of the original comic strip, which that did not need elaborate scenes to create situations that people can relate to and laugh at.
Snoopy!!! is a fun and nostalgic evening for adults who grew up reading the Peanuts comics and watching the television specials. However, it also appeals to children. My 8-year-old son thought the play was fun and wanted to learn more about the Peanuts characters when he got home. These beloved children (and their awesome dog) with relatable struggles are timeless characters who have made generations laugh, which makes Snoopy!!! such an enjoyable theatrical experience.