When the lights came down at Broadway's Barrymore Theatre, Rob McClure — a 2013 Tony Award nominee for originating the role of silent-film legend Charlie Chaplin in the new Broadway musical Chaplin — returned to his New Jersey high school to put the lights up for New Milford High's production of Spelling Bee.
"I've gone back to my high school every year, whenever I'm available, to help in staging the musical in whatever capacity they'll have me. I find it hugely rewarding," McClure told Playbill.com at the recent Tony Award nominees press junket. "I called Ken Billington — Tony Award-winning lighting designer Ken Billington — from Chaplin for advice, and he gladly helped me. He wanted me to send him pictures!"
McClure, previously of Broadway's Avenue Q and I'm Not Rappaport, rose to fame this season by embodying the spirit of Charlie Chaplin and portraying the iconic Little Tramp. However, the grounded Tony-nominated Best Actor hasn't allowed his newfound fame to seep through his oversized shoes and rise to the bowler hat atop his head.
"I had a lot of people — for a long time — telling me to expect this, and I never let it in," confessed McClure, who stood beside fellow Tony nominee and Oscar winner Tom Hanks ("I'm in the same room as Tom Hanks over there," he whispered. "Welcome to my life all of a sudden"). "I never let that notion really sink in because how can you? All you can really do is focus on the work and try to do the best job you can."
His hard work — which included a trip to "Chaplin Boot Camp" — paid off. The actor, who had been with the project since it played the La Jolla Playhouse under the title of Limelight — losing 42 lbs. from his first day of La Jolla rehearsal to his closing night on Broadway — received his first Tony nomination April 30, finding himself alongside leading men Bertie Carvel, Santino Fontana, Stark Sands and Billy Porter, a performer he had always admired.
"I'm overwhelmed," admitted McClure. "I've been a fan of theatre for so long that the idea of now suddenly being thrown in as a colleague, friend and fellow nominee of some of these people is astounding to me. I remember in high school building the sets for my musicals in high school, blasting Billy Porter's version of 'Beauty School Dropout' from the  Grease revival album, and now I'm nominated against Billy Porter. What is happening?!"
All The Way
Art of the Brick
Bullets over Broadway
Heart and Lights
Of Mice and Men
The Bridges of Madison County
The Realistic Joneses
The Velocity of Autumn
Tony n' Tina's Wedding