A staging at the respected Guildford School of Acting, which has a lauded musical theatre program, will be the latest test of the biographical Music Hall-flavored show about the early life of the film comedian. The show is by American writers Ernest Kinoy (book), Lee Goldsmith (lyrics) and Roger Anderson (music).
The composer told Playbill.com that the draft being directed by guest director Martin Connor at Guildford's Bellairs Playhouse Nov. 21-24 will represent the authors' original intent for the show. Expect references to commedia dell'arte figures that inspired Chaplin, and British Music Hall-style numbers (all original) to tell the rise of Chaplin from Victorian London orphan to 20th-century international actor-director.
The Guildford conservatoire production's musical director will be Niall Bailey; choreographer will be Bill Deamer; Colin Mayes will design; David Mitchell is lighting designer.
According to the Guildford announcement, "His life was theatre. Born into the shabby Musical Halls of London, Chaplin's life took him from the workhouse to Hollywood. Follow the story of the funniest man in the world and see him evolve into the smart, warm-hearted underdog that would become his trademark."
After being developed for Broadway in the early 1980s, with Joe Layton attached as director and Tony Walton lined up as designer, funding for the show fell through. The work would re-emerge in 1993 in Miami, where a resident staging won the prestigious Carbonell Award as Best New Work. A subsequent further revision played Sarasota, FL, but strayed from the authors' original conceit, which drenches it in a British sensibility, with references to Chaplin being part of the continuum of theatre history. The writers subtitle the musical A Memory as Entertainment.
This production's director, Martin Connor, began his directing experience with the Actors' Company and has directed numerous productions of musicals and plays in the West End, on tour in the U.K., U.S. and Japan.
For more information about the property, visit www.chaplinthemusical.com. Composer Anderson and lyricist Goldsmith also penned the musical Shine!, with book by Richard Seff.
Other fall productions in Guildford Conservatoire for Acting and Musical Theatre include Company; Batboy the Musical; Lope de Vega's Punishment Without Revenge, a Monkees-inspired musical called Daydream Believer; A Christmas Carol, Jack and the Beanstalk, Emma Reeves' adaptation of Little Women; and Comedy of Errors.
The box office for Guildford shows, including Chaplin, opens Sept. 1.
For more information about Guildford School productions, in Guildford, Surrey, 30 miles outside of London, visit www.conservatoire.org.