It's a dog's life, Charlie Brown
The creator of Snoopy! The Musical is bringing the Peanuts gang back to London
Tuesday 13 July 2004
The Broadway director Arthur Whitelaw, who created
Snoopy! The Musical, is to direct its 21st anniversary production in London. "It is a show that is very dear to my heart," says Whitelaw, who last directed the musical in 1983, first on Broadway, with Lorna Luft as Peppermint Patty, and then in London's West End. Whitelaw wrote
Snoopy! as a sequel to his 1967 adaptation of the
Peanuts comic strip,
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
The Broadway director Arthur Whitelaw, who created Snoopy! The Musical, is to direct its 21st anniversary production in London. "It is a show that is very dear to my heart," says Whitelaw, who last directed the musical in 1983, first on Broadway, with Lorna Luft as Peppermint Patty, and then in London's West End. Whitelaw wrote Snoopy! as a sequel to his 1967 adaptation of the Peanuts comic strip, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
"These days, there are about 300 productions of Snoopy! around the world each year, and more like 2,000 productions of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," enthuses Whitelaw. And that's not all he has to be pleased about: the man who gave Liza Minnelli her first stage role, opposite Christopher Walken in Best Foot Forward, and cast Jodie Foster in Tom Sawyer, is celebrating 50 years in showbusiness this year.
Snoopy! brings the creations of Charles Schulz to life with a big band, jazz-style score by Larry Grossman and Hal Hackaday. White-law's fascination with Peanuts goes back to when he was 16. "I just knew that it could be a musical. I tried to get the rights to no avail," he says. "But when I was 26, a girlfriend played me the album You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and I immediately rang the composer/lyricist Clark Gesner who had no intentions of turning his songs into a stage musical until I convinced him. He also had Schulz's telephone number. It just shows how some things are meant to be. So I called up Schulz. There was this pause and then he said I could make his comic strip into a musical. Well, the rest is history."
Whitelaw knew Schulz for more than 30 years. "He was the loveliest person I ever met. He looked like a grown-up version of Charlie Brown. But he was not funny in person; he lived in his own world. Seven days a week, he sat in his studio and he drew and thought up these strips for nearly 50 years." All of Schulz's characters were based on his fellow students at art school. "At a production in Minneapolis, I met most of them," says Whitelaw. "They came up to me and introduced themselves during the interval."
Now, Robin Armstrong is to make his West End debut in the title role. How does somebody play Snoopy, exactly? "He plays it like a comic dog, but not in animal costume - because Snoopy is really not a dog, but a human, as is Woodstock," says Whitelaw. "Woodstock's all in yellow, but not in a feathered costume of any kind."
The set is a multicoloured impression of a child's world "with a comic-strip feel to it". But Whitelaw points out that this is also a show with sophisticated jokes that adults can enjoy. "Schultz was a gifted observer of life. Peanuts is so much more than a comic strip. It is about real life."
'Snoopy! The Musical', New Players Theatre, London WC2 (0870 033 2626) from tomorrow
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Game of Thrones season 5: Emilia Clarke praises characters who 'accept their femininity'
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Glastonbury 2015 tickets: How to make sure you’re successful in Sunday's re-sale
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate