School production could hold its own on a professional stage. (Review by Keith Millar)
Let me say at the outset that Durban Girls College’s production of Snoopy! The Musical is an absolute delight – from the beginning to the end.
It is a big bundle of fun, mischief and enchantment, and it is brought beautifully to life by a cast of young ladies from the school.
The musical comedy is based on the massively popular Peanuts comic strip written and illustrated by the late Charles M Schultz. This strip ran in newspapers and publications around the world for over 50 years. There are no adults in the comic strip, just a social group of oddball young children, and a dog (Snoopy), all of whom have their own character traits, insecurities and foibles.
The musical is structured in short sharp scenes as if a series of comic strips. These are illustrated by songs, often with a positive message about life. The humour in the piece, and there are plenty of laughs, is universal and will be enjoyed by all ages.
Most of the more popular characters from the comic strip make an appearance in the musical, including Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Sally Brown, Peppermint Patti, Woodstock and, of course, the beagle, Snoopy.
The directors of this production, Wendy Watson and Kenlynn Sutherland, need to be congratulated for their casting - and their coaching of the young cast. They are to the man (or girl) terrific. They gave energised, thorough and absorbing performances which were hugely entertaining.
Snoopy, the beagle who lives in a fantasy world, was played with languid grace by Ruth Thumbi. The lovable Charlie Brown, the central figure in the Peanuts comic strips but a little lower key in the musical was made lovable by Wangui Ngotho. Leandri Kleyn brought Charlie’s ditsy sister, Sally, beautifully to life. The eccentric Linus, never without his security blanket, and always on the lookout for the Great Pumpkin, was expertly played by Klara Robertson.
Peppermint Patti, the freckle faced tomboy of the group, was played by an excellent Luca Tarboton. For me one of the stars of the production.
Kaela Simpson was convincing as the grumpy and domineering Lucy who makes Charlie Brown’s life so miserable. Her twin sister, Dina Simpson (you couldn’t tell them apart if it wasn’t for the costumes) was a delightful Woodstock, the bird who is Snoopy’s side-kick. This is a non-talking role but this young lady stole her scenes despite this. My other star of the show.
There is also a chorus 14 young ladies. They all gave faultless, enthusiastic and very energetic performances.
The music backing for the production was provided by an eight-piece ensemble. This is my only disappointment, as the strings, sax and flute where practically inaudible. I hope they can get the sound balance sorted out for their other performances.
The songs are all very pleasant ballads with Don’t Be Anything Less Than Everything You Can Be being the stand-out. The singing was very good with Wangui Ngotho (Charlie Brown) impressing most.
The set for this production was on loan from the KickstArt production company. It was very effective and versatile.
The costumes were also noteworthy. They were brightly coloured and true to the comic strip. They certainly added to the magic of the production.
There may be some concern as to the state of theatre in Durban. But if one looks at the standard being produced by our schools, possibly the concern is unfounded. Durban Girls College’s production of Snoopy! The Musical is very good. It could hold its own on a professional stage.
This production is unfortunately only on until March 30 with performances starting at 19h00 in the Centenary Hall at the school. Tickets are R50. To book, contact Jacci Lewis on email@example.com or 031 268 7239. – Keith Millar