The 1967 cast album of Clark Gesner's You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown finds new life Oct. 31, when Decca Broadway re-releases the recording on CD, with special material added.
The gently comic Off-Broadway musical (later seen on Broadway in 1971, and then in a jazzed-up and short-lived 1999 Broadway revival) offers "an average day in the life of Charlie Brown," the Everyboy comic-strip character from "Peanuts." The characters who act and sing in what are essentially "black outs" or sketches inspired by the strip (which ran 1950-2000) are Charlie Brown (Gary Burghoff, now best known as Radar O'Reilly from TV's "M*A*S*H"), Snoopy (Bill Hinnant), Linus (Bob Balaban, an NYU film student who would go on to a career as a movie and TV character actor), Patty (Karen Johnson), Lucy (Reva Rose) and Schroeder (Skip Hinnant, Bill's younger brother).
The piano-and-percussion show (with some xylophone in the mix) became one of the most-produced shows of the 20th century in stock and amateur markets and is beloved for the simplicity of its score, which includes "Happiness," "Book Report," "Suppertime," "T-E-A-M," "My Blanket and Me," "Kite" and more.
The Decca re-release has new liner notes taking the show's history to 2000, when "Peanuts" creator Charles M. Schulz died within a day of the publication of his last strip (he had retired due to health reasons).
The CD also has selections from a recording — called "Peanuts in Song" — made by Gesner, drawing on the "Peanuts" characters (Gesner is on piano and sings with Barbara Minkus). It was this record that he sent to Schulz to get permission to create the "cast revue on record," which was developed into the stage show (put together by Gesner with the acting company, who took the name "John Gordon" as collective bookwriter, according to liner notes). Arthur Whitelaw and Gene Persson produced, Jules Fisher designed lights, Joseph Hardy directed and Joe Raposo was the musical supervisor and arranger. On the cast album, Ron Clairmont is on piano, Lou Nazarro is on percussion. There is also a cast album for the 1999 staging (available in stores) and a 10-song studio album with Orson Bean, Gesner and Minkus and with orchestra conducted by Jay Blackton (apparently not available on CD).
The show opened March 7, 1967, at Theatre 80 St. Mark's in Greenwich Village and ran 1,597 performances. Liner note contributor Denny Martin Flinn points out that the show virtually invented the producing idea of the "sitdown" staging in which local actors were cast in regional productions overseen by the New York creators and producers.
Larry Grossman wrote a subsequent musical, Snoopy!!!, drawing on the precedent set by You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.