It started as a concept album and then transformed into a stage play, which has become one of the most performed plays in the world. In 1985, the musical made its way to TV like classic PEANUTS adaptations via animation. At 49 minutes, the special is like a review of the stage version, giving fans a musical highlight reel to the world that Charles Schulz created.
The production begins with the title tune where the Peanuts gang gives their impression of good ole Charlie Brown (Brad Kesten, voice, Kevin Brando, singing). Next we get a song set to Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" where Lucy (Jessica Lee Smith) laments her love for pianist Schroeder (Jeremy Reinbolt). She says, "My Aunt Marion was right, never try to discuss marriage with a musician." Charlie Brown gets wrapped up in many of his classic misfortunes involving kite flying, Valentine's Day cards and losing baseball games.
For fans of the PEANUTS animated specials the most striking element of this edition is that Snoopy not only talks but sings. He sings about being a wild animal and for his supper. Many of the episodes are based on strips created by Schulz, as is most of the musical, but it just does seem right in animation. Robert Towers' voice just doesn't seem right for the black and white beagle. Plus the songs he is given are not the most memorable of the show.
One of the highlights is based directly on one of Schulz's classic strips and shows the various characters dealing with a book report on PETER RABBIT in various ways. It's smart and funny, especially how Charlie Brown tries to push off the assignment. The special ends with the most famous song in the show, "Happiness." It captures the simple pleasures in life, as well as the simple pleasure of the PEANUTS.
Because of its short running time the animated production has little time for the connecting elements of the stage production. It's mainly the songs just strung together. Some of the songs are better than others. The musical doesn't tell a story so it's not as engaging as the best of the animated specials. But for fans it's like visiting old friends and reminiscing. Because many of the songs are based directly on Charles Schulz's strips, it has a purity at times that is happiness.
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