Saturday, October 7, 2017

REVIEW: You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown - 2017 by Sifu Production

"Happiness is morning and evening, day time and night time too..." 2017 has been a year of many musicals experience for Malaysia. Well, it is for me. With so many of our local artistes, be it stage, creative teams or management, they all have been neglected by the local's public eye. If one would say that only the International Productions are worth watching, then my take to prove them wrong with You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown because it will be a thrill ride for all fellow Malaysians.

Indeed, there aren't many theatres that are solely built for big stage productions here in Malaysia but with what's available, I think they are more than enough to deliver such performances in terms of standards and qualities.

The establishment of Sifu Production was not in vain as Freddy Tan (one of the Founder of Sifu Productions), Director of this musical were one of the many that bought the rights of this 1999 award winning Broadway Musical into our doorstep. Assisted alongside, with director William Yap, (also an established stage director for many of our local Chinese production) which contributed his experiences in directing a full scale musical.

A worthy mention, with all media interviews, they did not factor in the hours they spent busting their all in order to bring us a show which is as close as travelling to the Big Apple that anyone could've asked for.

Staying faithful to most of the original arrangements, the cast did make a slight adjustment here and there. In all of it's praises, all characters in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown are so genuine, you will think that you're in the room playing with them if you're a big fan of Peanuts.

The cast, Peter Ong was initially given the title role before Joel Wong replaced him for an injury that needed prolong nursing and therapy. Eventually, the role of Schroeder, will be replaced by an upcoming talent, Izen Kong.

The creative team has brought You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown to life on the Damansara Performing Art Centre's stage with a very cute cartoon-ish prop designers, Simon Lee & Joanne Ooi. Set designer, Zen Tan. Lighting designer, Amelia Tan. Sound engineer, Mohd Najib. Choreographer, Tunku Atiah, Musical directors are Fly Halizor and Loh Ui Li accompanied by band members Saizuddin Bin Biden and Him Ee Jeng. They, too, played the entire score very well, without an inch of mistake to be heard. 

A very vibrant costume designer that fits this performance very well by Zamri Saidin. Lastly, the stage managers are Keilly Lim and assisted by Joanne Ooi.

Honorable mentions of the cast which brought the house down with a standing ovation performance. Actors performance review in alphabetical order based on their first name:

Benjamin Lin, he is THE Snoopy!!! Our Snoopy!! My Snoopy! He stole my heart away when he started his first woof in the very first number. No one is suppose to understand him except the audience. He made us relate with his frustration that all the audience felt connected. I couldn't stop smiling when "Red Baron" was up right after intermission. I know I am going to miss his character dearly when I knew "Suppertime" has ended.

Ivan Chan Atienza, that cute little Linus, the one who always sucks his thumb with his blanket with him as his companion. His ability to sing with that short tongue deficiency and accent included, caught us by surprise how much he could hold off the entire show. "My Blanket And Me" gave a tender moment when it comes to being detached from his blanket was portrayed very very well. And that moment, he assured his sister Lucy, that no matter what, he will stand by her side. That was a true touching moment to applaud for!

Izen Konghis character as Schroeder wasn't pronounced at the beginning. Not until when his number "Beethoven Day" came up, he literally stole the show with his vocal abilities with his stage presence. What I truly like about him is that he nicely irascible the character as how Schroeder should be. He prove to us with a really good time during "Glee Club Rehearsal" with a touch of adorable geekyness towards the end. His love for Beethoven is pronounced and his hostility towards Lucy was every bit of an entertainment to us all. No matter how, he is always darling to Lucy.

Joel Wong, behold he is completely believable as Charlie Brown. I have my confession that I doubted him at first, when Peter left for recovery. Now, Joel prove me wrong with his nerdy looking boyish feature. He is able to look and search within himself by exploring with his peers whether is he a really good man. Without a doubt, Joel could sing very well. His portrayal as Charlie is very much anyone could have asked for. He is able to draws our our sympathy for him. Will Peter Ong be proud of him? I know I would.

Safia Hanifa, is a standout actress for her role as Lucy. She has a great stage presence as the ebullient girl with a distinctly catty edge. She screams, she shouts, she sings and annoys the living hell out of everyone including the audience. As long as she's on that stage, she caught me by just turning all my attention and direction towards her annoying portrayal. She made that introduction announcement before the show starts with so much enthusiasm which got me all ready for what we're about to embark.

Tria Aziz, I lover her to bits as Sally Brown!!! My favourite song is "My New Philosophy" and she pulls it off effortlessly! Yup, she has this oddly witty jovial character side in her. My hats off to her soprano vocal abilities and there was much more to her and her relationship with the cast. She made me laughed so hard during "Rabbit Chasing". In the end, I have a soft spot for her as an actress. I truly adore her!

The issue with this musical is that among the high quality acting and some sharply funny dialogue is a nagging sense that the musical as a whole could be a tad bit tighter.

Other than that, there is so much to enjoy in this sharply observed local revival of the show, particularly the very strong and convincingly directed cast.

This production itself made me, as a Malaysian, very proud that we are able to produce a musical with such qualities and standards. I hope this not be the last because I would very much love to see more shows such as this! Bravo!