If you’re looking for a family-friendly diversion, try “Snoopy, the Musical” at the Falcon Theatre. Part of the Falcon Family Summer Theatre series, the show is laden with the kind of puns, pratfalls, sight gags and silliness guaranteed to tickle the preteen funnybone.
There’s plenty to divert adult sensibilities as well. The show’s director, Matt Walker, also heads the celebrated Troubadour Theater Company, noted for such hilarious amalgamations of classic drama and contemporary music as “Fleetwood Macbeth” and “It’s a Stevie Wonderful Life.” A trained clown, Walker keeps the physical action of “Snoopy” at a brisk romp.
Choreographer Larry Sousa contributes broad dance sequences as simple and appealing as a child’s playground game, and music director/pianist Win Meyerson, with percussionist Andrew Meskin, provides lively accompaniment throughout.
Youthful exuberance informs the design elements as well. Costume designer Sharon McGunigle takes the iconic patterns laid down in the “Peanuts” strip -- Charlie Brown’s zigzag shirt, Lucy’s little blue dress -- and makes them bigger and brighter. Lighting designer Nick McCord keeps the mood sunny, while set designer Victoria Profitt supplies the colorful set pieces, many of foam rubber that cushions various acrobatic exploits.
If there’s a deficit in this zesty mix, it’s the material itself. First produced in 1975, the piece is a sequel of sorts to “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” the 1967 musical that was extensively revised for its 1999 Tony-winning Broadway revival. That original musical was essentially the brainchild of one man -- Clark Gesner, who wrote the book, lyrics and music.
The sequel, which features mostly splendid music by Larry Grossman and lyrics by Hal Hackady, is dragged down by a problematic book, written by Arthur Whitelaw (original producer for “Good Man”), Warren Lockhart, Michael L. Grace and Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates. It’s a prime example of too many cooks.
Having adults play child roles is always problematic, and it becomes more so if the writers pander to their subject. That’s no fault of these performers, however, who are engagingly straightforward within the context of their cutesy dialogue. The entire cast is physically dexterous, although a bit uneven when it comes to vocal abilities. As Snoopy, Joey Bybee displays the necessary agility mingled with plenty of unflappable savoir-faire, while the athletic Tina Groff proves a gifted mime as Woodstock, Snoopy’s avian foil.
Erin Bennett shows the romantic yearning under raw-boned Peppermint Patty’s tomboy veneer. When he’s not jonesing for his blanket, Robbie Swift’s Linus is amusingly cerebral, although his position as moral center of the “Peanuts” universe got lost on the road to this sequel. Anna A. White’s Sally Brown scores high on the cute and peppy scale, while Gail Bianchi’s Lucy is mouthy, spunky and fittingly clueless.
The character of Charlie Brown is typically the wallpaper against which the more vivacious characters stand out. Here, Rory O’Malley makes Charlie pop in the funniest and most authentic turn of the show.
‘Snoopy, the Musical’
Where: Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 4 and 7 p.m. Sundays
Ends: July 18
Price: $20 to $32.50
Contact: (818) 955-8101
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes