Thursday, November 5, 2015

Play It Again, Charlie Brown

Premiered March 28, 1971.
Lucy:Schroeder, do piano players make a lot of money?
Schroeder:MONEY!  Who cares about money?  This is art!

Lucy Van Pelt (Pamelyn Ferdin) has got it bad.  She is "in love" with Schroeder (Danny Hjeim) and is constantly stopping by his house and telling him how much she likes him.  But Schroeder barely acknowledges her existence, other than to tell Lucy he doesn't like her.  He's only interested in playing Beethoven's music on his piano.

Sally (Hilary Momberger) tells Lucy that "the only way to attract older men is to flatter them."  Lucy takes this advice to heart and tells Schroeder he's cute.  Schroeder ignores her and keeps playing his piano.  

Lucy tells Snoopy (Bill Melendez) about her romantic problems.  The beagle tells her (through his gestures) that she should cut to the chase and give Schroeder a kiss.  Schroeder responds to her kiss by crying out for hot water and iodine!

When Lucy is about to throw in the towel, Peppermint Patty (Christopher DeFaria) has an idea that gives her hope.  

The local PTA is holding a benefit and Peppermint Patty is responsible for booking entertainment.  She tells Lucy that Schroeder can provide live music and Lucy can take credit for setting up his professional debut.

Schroeder is grateful for this and tells Lucy she is "nice" for arranging his first paying gig.  Lucy is on top of the world when Schroeder thanks her.  But Peppermint Patty has some bad news.  Schroeder will not be allowed to play classical music.  The PTA wants a rock concert.

Charlie Brown (Chris Inglis) has a solution to this problem.  He has a rock trio that can serve as Schroeder's back-up band.  But Schroeder isn't interested in playing rock music.  Charlie Brown begs him to reconsider and think of how everyone will be disappointed if he doesn't play.  

Schroeder changes his mind and decides to play rock at the benefit show.  But he feels that he's sold out.

Has Schroeder sold out?  Will he go through with the concert?

J.A. Morris says:
Play It Again, Charlie Brown is another fun special that was rarely shown on tv.  If nothing else, it's noteworthy as one of the few specials that relegates Charlie Brown to a supporting role.  He doesn't even appear onscreen until the 8-minute mark of this special.

Schroeder looks to Beethoven for guidance.
Another unique aspect is that Charlie Brown gets to be sort of "cool" in Play It Again.  He's the lead guitarist in a combo with Pigpen on drums and Snoopy on bass.  Even Lucy, who is usually Chuck's biggest detractor, dances to the music played by his band.  

Schroeder expresses his dislike for rock music, while Lucy dances.
It might sound silly to speculate about the lives of fictional characters when they're "off camera."  But I'd like to think this means Charlie Brown has friends who appreciate his "musical" side and don't call him a blockhead. 

Lucy has a line where she says the women's liberation movement will take away her membership if they "ever found out how I throw myself at that man!"  This is the sort of cultural reference that could only occur in the 1970s.  Some might feel that this line dates Play It Again, but as a historian, I appreciate the "period" detail.

In a case of role-reversal, Lucy seeks psychiatric help!
There's a strange and funny running gag about spray cans in Play It Again.  Lucy tells Schroeder that "Beethoven comes in spray cans" and we hear Beethoven's 5th symphony emanate from a spray can!  I guess it's a comment about the disposable nature of modern music?  It's very strange, almost surreal and not the sort of thing I can recall seeing in other Peanuts specials.  But I like it!

  If I have any problem with Play It Again, Charlie Brown, it's the pacing.  The special is more than half over before we hear about the PTA benefit concert.  Before that, it's just a series of vignettes. That doesn't make it bad at all, it just means it's a notch below the best Charlie Brown animated offerings.   

Frieda (Lynda Mendelson) makes a brief cameo...

...and pays a price for not knowing who Beethoven was.
All of the voice actors do a fine job.  Lucy is more pouty than mean in this special and Pamelyn Ferdin does a great job delivering the pouty-ness.  Danny Hjeim is also fine as Schroeder.  

This was the first Peanuts animation that did not feature Peter Robbins as Charlie Brown.  Perhaps that's why the creative team decided to build a special around other characters?  In any event, Chris Inglis (in his only outing as Charlie Brown) makes a good Chuck.  Inglis is especially convincing when he says "think of your ol' manager!" while begging Schroeder to play with his rock band. 

John Scott Trotter is credited as arranger of Vince Guaraldi's music here.  Play It Again is the first special that featured Guaraldi's music played on electric instruments.  It's a big change from earlier specials, but it sounds great to me.  Trotter wrote the music played by Charlie Brown's combo and it's a catchy rock 'n roll instrumental. 

But the real musical star of Play It Again, Charlie Brown is Ludwig Van Beethoven.  We get samples from nine of Beethoven's works.  Schroeder's piano solos were wonderfully performed by Lillian Steuber.  She was a renowned concert pianist and a music professor at University of Southern California.  

This special can be found on a dvd called Peanuts 1970s Collection Vol 1 and it also streams on iTunes.

Snoopy and Linus (Stephen Shea) dance up a storm, much to the dismay of Lucy.
Play It Again, Charlie Brown is an enjoyable special filled with great music and quirky humor.  It's recommended to all Peanuts fans, especially those who love the Lucy/Schroeder dynamic. 

  J.A. Morris' rating:



3 and a half Sparkys.

No comments:

Post a Comment