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SNOOPY!!! (article first published : 2006-03-4)

Break out the dog biscuits - that loony mutt with musical and literary aspirations is tearing up the stage.

Naturally, Snoopy, immortalised by cartoonist Charles M Schulz, is never alone for long either in the Peanuts cartoon strips or this delightful musical. His lugubrious owner Charlie Brown and dotty friends mull over life's promises, dreams and natural wonders from a (highly sophisticated) child's point of view.

This staging, in which debut director Elzabé Zietsman's kookoo! Productions becomes a new player on the busy musicals scene, pumps fresh energy into this whimsical, actually in retrospect, quite naïve, 1980's piece.

There's no faulting the cast, despite the fact that the sound was up to maggots in the first half of opening night.

It's so great to see talents like Byron-Lee Olivato, a really terrific Snoopy; Mortimer Williams, a totally adorable Charlie Brown; Jeffrey Sebogodi, the sweetest Woodstock on the tap-dancing block, and Maggie Benedict, a cute Sally Brown, excelling in vehicles other than African Footprint and Janice Honeyman pantos.

Also making their mark are actors who can really sing, too. Take a bow Natasja Jacobs, an impressive Peppermint Patty; Michelle Botha, a powerhouse Lucy and Daniel de Lange, an endearing Linus.

The two musicians, Edwin Randell and Clinton Zerf, doubling up as the precocious Schroeder, with their own little "baby grands", are a real treat.

Sadly Heidi Edeling's impeccably crisp musical and vocal direction is not always well served by the stage direction and Chris Booysen's set design (a car becomes a kennel), which is far too cramped on this stage. It needs to breathe. Christopher Kindo's choreography is at its best when it is unfussy.

It's easy to see why kookoo! chose Snoopy!!!, which was such a national hit here in the 1980s. It remains a feel-good piece of challenging Broadway calibre magic which, although maybe not accessible to very small children, is a good family outing.

The question is: does this Snoopy!!! live up to its three exclamation marks? I'd say one, but definitely deserves three long joyous howls, Snoopy-style, for the amazing performers. - Adrienne Sichel

”Snoopy!!!” comes to the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from April 4 from 29.




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