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CB Chronicles II: Roy, Glee Club, and The Baseball Game

My Charlie Brown experience almost got off the ground circa 1978, when my mother had been enslaved by the Boy Scouts of America to serve as Cub Scout Den Mother to myself and my fellow almost-Webelos. She got the idea of doing a production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown at church, but when she did the math, she realized there were only four boy parts – CB, Schroeder, Linus, and Snoopy – and five actual boys. I suggested adding a section to the show so one of the boys could play Roy, a minor character that only appeared in the strip when Charlie Brown went to camp. I was even willing to write Roy a camp-oriented song, but my mother was wise enough to recognize both my songwriting limitations and the inevitable copyright lawsuits, so the show was shelved indefinitely. (Not scrapped altogether, mind you – just shelved. Behold more foreshadowing! Foreshadowing is a very effective literary device.)

The tidbit that came out of that experience was that my mother had wanted to cast me not as Charlie Brown, which was, I thought, my destiny, but rather as Snoopy, which she insisted was a better part. She was right, of course, but I drew the line at her suggestion that I should study how my dogs behaved in order to research the role. My dogs spent far more time licking things than I thought would be appropriate in my interpretation of the character.

But life went on, and I was neither Charlie Brown nor Snoopy until about two years later, when I was asked to sing a solo for the Los Angeles Children’s Choir, which I had joined the year previous against my will. (That was my mother’s influence again. Other kids my age were playing little league, but my disastrous track record with organized sports required an alternative extracurricular solution to get me out of the house.)

Serendipitously, the L.A. Children’s Choir had a history with the Charlie Brown show, having produced the musical at Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Hollywood the year before. In their concerts, then, they included two excerpts from the show – “Glee Club Rehearsal” and “The Baseball Game.”

“Glee Club Rehearsal, ” which may well be the funniest number in the entire show, involves Schroeder leading his fellow Peanuts in a rehearsal for tomorrow’s school assembly performance. While singing “Home on the Range,” CB, Linus, Lucy, and Patty slip in musical asides that continue their feud about a stolen pencil and Linus’ labeling of Patty as “an enigma,” which causes problems because none of the other characters knows what an enigma is.*

For some reason, they changed the whole thing to reflect the idea that this wasn’t happening in the Peanuts universe, but rather in a children’s choir. So the stolen pencil became a stolen sheet of music, the whole enigma thing was mangled beyond recognition in ways I can’t remember, and the line “what are you trying to do, stifle my freedom of speech?” became “what are you trying to do, ruin my chances to sing?”

In other words, it had all the Peanuts and all the funny drained out of it. Why? I guess it’s just one more enigma.*

The one funny part I do remember, though, is that the centerpiece of the whole number was a very nice kid who couldn’t carry a tune if it had handles on it, so the director gave him a part in the manufactured drama in order to give him something to do. When he wasn’t in the number, the director called him our “tacit” singer, meaning he should just stand there and mouth the words and not befoul the choir with his actual voice.

“The Baseball Game” was far more faithful to its source material, and it involved me – FINALLY – playing Charlie Brown, the (non-licking) role I was born to play. The rest of the choir was my baseball team, with My Esteemed Colleague leaping out at one point to shout “M!” with ludicrously precise pronunciation when the players were called upon to spell the word “TEAM.” Without prompting, My Esteemed Colleague also decided to play a janitor at the end of the song, sweeping up after everyone else has abandoned poor Charlie Brown when he single-handedly loses the game.

My problem, though, was that my voice had entered that Peter-Brady-mid-puberty-cracking-at-the-high-notes range, and I couldn’t really sing the piece, per se. I pointed that out to the director, who told me that Rex Harrison couldn’t hit the high notes, either, so he spoke all of his songs. I tried that once, I think, and I found that while that might work when you’re performing “Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man,” its application to “The Baseball Game” is iffy at best. So, instead, I dropped parts of the song by a full octave, which didn’t sound much better. But what did that matter? My Charlie Brown journey had begun, and July 13, 1985 was a full five years away. (More foreshadowing. If you don’t know what foreshadowing is, look it up.)

* e·nig·ma
noun, plural -mas, -ma·ta  [-muh-tuh]
1. a puzzling or inexplicable occurrence or situation: His disappearance is an enigma that has given rise to much speculation.
2. a person of puzzling or contradictory character: To me he has always been an enigma, one minute completely insensitive, the next moved to tears. (I think this is the one that applies to Patty.)
3. a saying, question, picture, etc., containing a hidden meaning; riddle.
4. ( initial capital letter ) a German-built enciphering machine developed for commercial use in the early 1920s and later adapted and appropriated by German and other Axis powers for military use through World War II. (Maybe this applies to Patty, too.)

The Charlie Brown Chronicles: Volume I
CB Chronicles III: The Curse of Schroeder

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  1. I wish! Said VHS videos do exist, but I don’t own them, and they have yet to be transferred to DVD or some other digital format. I’ve spoken to the owner of them, and the owner wants to make the transfers but has not yet done so.

  2. It’s a fine Irish name, it’s a fine Irish name, thank you very much. Well, then, Charlie Brown, shall we? Let’s sit down by the fire first. I remember these old days. Now you shouldn’t be slanderin’ spoken songs too much, Jimmie lad, because good ol’ Billy Shatner has made an art of it. ‘Tis a shame you didn’t sprechstimme like dear to our hearts Mr. Shatner! As it was, the breathy “neck to the heavens” approach was charmin’, surly charmin’. I once ate a whole bag of potater chips, did you know that, Stally-pal? It was three dabs from the middle of 1977, in a parking lot somewhere near Winnetka, and a dark, harsh breath was comin’ down strong from the tall, stretched canvas above me. Anyway, back to Charlie Brown. I could swear I see Michelle Dillworth looking up towards the right at Natasha Brown, with Ruth Mendoza directly across from her, and is that Amber above Michelle? Take some fashion tips from these days, Cornellio, and grow a big, fat beard. Yes, a beard dripping with Crisco, I say, just to “make it look right”, as they say in Arizona. I thank you for this full steaming pipe full of long, smoked tobacco. I just ate yer shorts.

  3. First of all, “AN ENIGMA?!?!” is permanently seared into my brain, so thanks for that reminder.

    Second, the girl looking up could be Lora Cowan. She was just a li’l peanut herself and was frequently put in the front rows. Which would make this a photo from a children’s choir performance circa 1980-1981.