For a masterclass in ensemble performing, make a trip to the Jermyn Street Theatre to see Morning Vicar and Zoop Zoop’s production of Snoopy – The Musical. Director Joseph Pitcher (also credited as choreographer along with Claire Winsper) has made a sterling job of bringing to life the comic strip characters of Peppermint Patty, Lucy and Charlie Brown, creating a magical world where characters fall in love with worms or yearn for someone to call them “Poor Sweet Baby”. Yes, this is “The World According To Snoopy”.
From the opening bars of the subtle piano and drums accompaniment, the atmosphere generated by the production is electric. Within seconds the performers are able to clasp the audience in the palms of their hands due to thoroughly engaging performances, exquisite singing and outstanding choreography. Despite being only the first preview, the piece was carefully controlled and narrative segued into song with ease, with the slick movement creating a visual feast.
Pitcher has assembled a cast of great calibre, where youth and enthusiasm is by no means a substitute for talent. It is testament to the quality of the performances that it is impossible to pick out either the strongest or the weakest link. As Charlie Brown, Neil Gordon-Taylor successfully created a character of pathos and his song, “Where Did That Little Dog Go?” was extremely poignant, whilst Gemma Maclean’s Sally Brown possessed great comic timing during her quest for knowledge.
Sarah Lark, now playing a very different kind of Little Girl than her previous role in The Witches of Eastwick, displayed a true star quality. Performing with zest and energy, she demonstrated great versatility as the argumentative Lucy in both her speech and her rich, powerful singing voice.
The musical director, Matt Malone, dedicates his performance to Stuart Piper’s comedy expressions as Linus; whilst these are almost worthy of the ticket price alone, they face fierce competition from Cassidy Janson’s Peppermint Patty and Alice Chilver’s Woodstock. Janson provides outstanding characterisation for her gawky character from the detail on her face to the way she stands and moves, making her a delight to watch. Piper deserves a one-man show, yet pleasingly he never upstages any of his co-performers. Chilver perhaps has the hardest role, having to rely purely on her facial expressions and movement for the majority of the show. She carries this off with aplomb, however, and gained many cheers from the audience at the end of the performance.
With such a terrific ensemble performance to measure against, Stephen Carlile’s portrayal of the title character is admirable. He is sufficiently cynical and dead-pan in his delivery to act as a perfect foil for the “humans” of the piece, and displays his many talents in his solo number, “The Big Bow Wow”, complete with top hat and cane.
In short, Morning Vicar and Zoop Zoop Productions have ensured that the future of musical theatre is bright and rosy. Talent oozes from every pore, whether it be from the role of a director, choreographer or cast member, as they thoroughly embrace Peppermint Patty’s thought, “Don’t Be Anything Less Than Everything You Can Be”.