When the play, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, was first staged on March 7, 1967, at Theatre 80 in New York City, there was no real script. The six young actors were armed mostly with ten songs and ten years' worth of cartoons by "Peanuts" creator, Charles M. Schulz.
Clark Gesner, who created the music and lyrics for the play, notes in the foreword to the Random House edition of the script that the success of the play could be largely attributed to Schulz's "immensely human view of the world and his special ability to say it for all of us."
The story of the play itself is told through a series of vignettes that mimic the four-panel format used by the original cartoon strip, "Peanuts." This panel format is supplemented with longer passages that are vaguely reminiscent of Shakespearean soliloquies and by musical interludes.
The scope of the play is described as an average day in the life of Charlie Brown and is broken into two acts.
The play begins with Charlie Brown and Linus talking. "I really don't think you have anything to worry about, Charlie Brown," Linus says. "After all, science has shown that a person's character isn't really established until he's at least five years old."
"But I am five. I'm more than five," laments Charlie Brown.
"Oh. Well, that's the way it goes," says Linus.
The play moves along quickly, introducing more of the "Peanuts" gang; Patty, Schroeder, Lucy, and Snoopy. All of the characters share their observations, largely unflattering, of Charlie Brown. Lucy, for example, discusses what she terms Charlie Brown's "Failure Face."
As the play progresses, the relationships of the "Peanuts" characters to one another are further expanded. To anyone who has followed the comic strip, these relationships will not provide any surprises. Included is Lucy's infatuation with Schroeder and her perverse joy at tormenting Charlie Brown, Linus's love of his blanket, Snoopy's rich world of imagination, and, of course, Charlie Brown's hopeless love-at-a-distance of the mysterious little redheaded girl.
The play concludes with the characters each listing the things that, for them, constitute happiness. Then, as the group leaves the stage, Lucy approaches Charlie Brown and shakes his hand. "You're a good man, Charlie Brown," she tells him.
Charlie Brown is left alone on the stage, with a faint smile forming on his face.