Clark Gesner, the composer and lyricist whose defining success was the 1967 smash You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, died of a heart attack last Tuesday at the age of 64. Gesner died at Manhattan's Princeton Club; he was a Princeton alum whose entertainment career began as an actor and singer with that university's famed Triangle Club. He made his home in Brooklyn Heights.
Charlie Brown opened in 1967 and became a long-running smash: according to the Lortel Archives, the show logged 1,597 performances at the 179-seat Theater 80 on St. Marks in the East Village. Perhaps more importantly in terms of Gesner's legacy, the show became a favorite with regional and school producers--the only place it couldn't find success, it seems, is on Broadway, where both a 1971 run and a 1999 revival fared poorly.
Remarkably, especially for an author who never had another hit, Gesner wrote book, lyrics, and score for You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. His other shows included The Utter Glory of Morrissey Hall, which didn't make a dent at the box office; Gesner ultimately returned to performing, appearing in regional musical productions. A revue of his cabaret tunes, The Jello Is Always Red, was produced by the York Theater in 1998, featuring Gesner himself.