La Jolla's Limelight Will Shine on Musical About Charlie Chaplin

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06 May 2010

Composer-lyricist Christopher Curtis' musical about the life, loves and career of screen legend Charlie Chaplin, seen in the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2006, will get a second life at the La Jolla Playhouse this fall.

According to a casting notice, La Jolla will present the musical — once called Behind the Limelight, but listed for the moment as "untitled" — in September and October.

Michael Unger, who shepherded earlier developmental presentations (including a starry fall 2008 reading), remains the director. Music and lyrics are by Curtis, and the libretto is by Curtis and Tony Award winner Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers). Meehan is new to the project since 2006.

Bryan Perri is the musical director, as he was at NYMF. La Jolla Playhouse has not officially announced the project.

Behind the Limelight was also seen in a 2005 reading at New York Stage and Film.



The musical about the legendary British music hall clown who rose to international stardom when he moved to the U.S. and became a silent screen star — and later a writer, director, composer, producer and more — includes the characters of Charlie (between his teen years and adulthood), Older Charlie (in his 60s or 70s), Oona (a hopeful actress and mate), Sydney (Charlie's brother), Hedda Hopper (the famed gossip columnist), Hannah (Charlie's mother), Music Hall MC (who gives Charlie his big break), Mr. Chaplin/Sennett (Charlie's drunkard father and the silent film director, respectively), Mildred (Charlie's first wife), Charlie (as a boy), Sydney (as a boy) and more.

Chaplin's most famous silent pictures include "The Kid," "The Circus," "Modern Times," "City Lights" and "The Gold Rush."

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This new musical is not to be confused with one of several Chaplin-related shows out in the world, including the American musical, Chaplin, by composer Roger Anderson, lyricist Lee Goldsmith and librettist Ernest Kinoy. It stalled on its way to Broadway in the 1980s, but later found award-winning success in a 1993 Miami staging (where it won the Carbonell Award for Best New Work), and was presented in a revised developmental production in England in 2007. The musical used British Music Hall-style numbers (all original) to tell the rise of Chaplin from Victorian London orphan to 20th-century international actor-director.

Anderson previously told Playbill.com that his Chaplin (subtitled A Memory as Entertainment) avoids "his fame and politics and tells the story of young, searching Chaplin."