Charles Schulz, the author of the comic strip "Peanuts," which was read by 355 million people across the world during its 50-year run and in turn inspired two musicals, died Feb. 12, just hours before his last strip ran in the papers. Mr. Schulz retired late last year upon being diagnosed with colon cancer.
"Peanuts," starring its everyman protagonist, the ever-suffering Charlie Brown, debuted in Oct. 2, 1950. A few years later, the cartoon was a nationwide success. It's popularity, which would little flag over the next decades, was never greater than in the 60s, when it provided material for anthologies, television specials ("A Charlie Brown Christmas"), volumes of critical analysis ("The Gospel According to Peanuts"), hit songs (The Royal Guardsman's "Snoopy and the Red Baron") and, in 1967, a musical, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Penned by Clark Gesner and directed by Joseph Hardy, the sketchy, unprepossessing show debuted at Theatre 80 St. Marks in New York on March 7, 1967.
The show ran for four years Off-Broadway and eventually transferred to Broadway in 1971. Gary Burghoff played Charlie Brown; Bill Hinnant was the wise, vainglorious beagle Snoopy; Reva Rose was the forever crabby Lucy Van Pelt; Bob Balaban her philosophical, blanket-toting brother, Linus; and Skip Hinnant was the Beethoven-worshipping Schroeder.
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown was revived in the spring of 1999, in a revised version, but fared less well, closing after a few months. It did, however, net Tony Awards for two of its actors: Roger Bart as Snoopy, and Kristin Chenoweth as Sally Brown, a character from the strip which was added for the revival.
A second "Peanuts" musical, Snoopy!, played Off-Broadway in 1982 and has enjoyed regional revivals. Charles Schulz is survived by his wife, five children and two step children.
--By Robert Simonson