The Man Behind the Movie: City Lights Shine on Broadway's Chaplin, Opening Sept. 10

News   The Man Behind the Movie: City Lights Shine on Broadway's Chaplin, Opening Sept. 10
The new musical Chaplin, depicting the life of screen legend Charlie Chaplin and chronicling the rise and fall of the infamous Little Tramp, officially opens at Broadway's Barrymore Theatre Sept. 10. Rob McClure stars.

Rob McClure as Chaplin
Rob McClure as Chaplin Photo by Joan Marcus

Barrymore Award winner McClure, who previously starred on Broadway in Avenue Q, originated the role of Chaplin in 2010 at La Jolla Playhouse, where the musical received its world premiere under the title of Limelight; that staging received Craig Noel Awards for Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical (McClure) and Outstanding New Musical. 

Drama Desk nominee Warren Carlyle (Finian's Rainbow; Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway), choreographer of the out-of-town tryout, returns as director and choreographer for Chaplin's Broadway bow.

"I'm very inspired by [Charlie Chaplin]," Carlyle told "He was a silent comedian. He was able to tell a story without a single word. As a choreographer, I love that. I'm challenged by that and inspired by it. In this show, we get to take the life of Charlie Chaplin and somehow make him speak…then make him sing. And, when he can no longer sing, he dances. It's an interesting challenge to bring that to life."

He added, "The show starts [in] this beautiful, kind of chocolate-box-y, perfect world and then dissolves into this very dark troubled place — as his life did." 

Chaplin features music and lyrics by Christopher Curtis, a relative unknown who played piano at Chez Josephine in the midtown theatre district, and a book by three-time Tony Award winner Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Curtis. Broadway previews began Aug. 21. "I actually met [Chaplin's] son, Sydney Chaplin, which was really interesting," said Curtis about why he chose to adapt Chaplin's life for Broadway. "I really didn't know much about Chaplin before that… I found his life really intriguing, [and] I thought the time period would lend itself to great music. And, I took a college course on his life. That's how it really started."

Rob McClure, Christiane Noll and Zachary Unger
photo by Joan Marcus

Joining McClure in Chaplin are Jim Borstelmann (The Addams Family, Young Frankenstein) as Alf Reeves, Chaplin's longtime friend and production manager; Jenn Colella (High Fidelity, Urban Cowboy) as Hedda Hopper, a powerful gossip columnist determined to bring down the Little Tramp; Erin Mackey (Anything Goes, Wicked) as the young Oona O'Neill, Chaplin's last wife; Michael McCormick (Elf, Curtains) as producer Sennett, McGranery/Emcee; Tony Award nominee Christiane Noll (Ragtime, Jekyll & Hyde) as Chaplin's mother, Hannah, who appears through a series of flashbacks; Zachary Unger (Encores! Merrily We Roll Along) as Young Charlie/Jackie; and Wayne Alan Wilcox (The Normal Heart) as older brother Sydney Chaplin.

Rounding out the ensemble are Justin Bowen, Emilee Dupré, Sara Edwards, Leslie Donna Flesner, Lisa Gajda, Timothy Hughes, Ethan Khusidman, Ian Liberto, Renée Marino, Michael Mendez, Sarah O’Gleby, Hayley Podschun, Adam Rogers, William Ryall, Eric Santagata and Emily Tyra.

McClure previoulsy told that "the audience gets to see the ultimate rags-to-riches story." The Broadway musical follows Chaplin from the London slums to his heyday in Hollywood, where he wrote, produced, directed and starred in hit films such as "The Kid," "Gold Rush," "City Lights" and "The Great Dictator." "He really does go from nothing to becoming the most famous man in the world, which is an amazing arc," McClure said. "What a lot of people don't know is that he had a pretty drastic fall from grace, too. It's a beautiful, beautiful life, and, for me as an actor, to get to spend that kind of evening just feels epic."

Read the full Leading Men column with Chaplin star McClure.

Here's how producers characterize the new musical: "From the slums of London to the heights of Hollywood, Chaplin is the showbiz Broadway musical about the silent film legend the world couldn't stop talking about — Charlie Chaplin. The brand new 24-person musical reveals the man behind the legend, the undeniable genius that forever changed the way America went to the movies."

The creative team members paint the two-act musical in shades of black, grey and white. They are scenic designer Beowulf Boritt, costume designers Amy Clark and Martin Pakledinaz, lighting designer Ken Billington, sound designers Scott Lehrer and Drew Levy and projection designer Jon Driscoll. (There is a generous use of film in the production, often featuring McClure as the Little Tramp, including recreations of famous Chaplin movie moments.) Bryan Perri is the musical director.

Chaplin is produced on Broadway by the Rich Entertainment Group, Roy Gabay, and John and Claire Caudwell, the Viertel Routh Frankel Baruch Group, Chunsoo Shin/Waxman-Dokton and Broadway Across America.

The Barrymore Theatre is located at 243 W. 47th Street. Tickets, which range in price from $66.50 to $135.50, can be purchased through Telecharge or by calling (212) 239-6200.


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