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"Chaplin", The Musical, at Ethel Barrymore Theatre

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Rich Entertainment Group, John & Claire Caudwell
et al.

The Musical
(Chaplin Website)

Introducing Rob McClure as “Charlie Chaplin”

Book by Christopher Curtis & Thomas Meehan
Lyrics by Christopher Curtis

Directed & Choreographed by Warren Carlyle

Ethel Barrymore Theatre
243 West 47th Street

Jim Borstelmann, Jenn Colella, Erin Mackey, Michael McCormick, Christiane Noll, Zachary Unger, Wayne Alan Wilcox

And an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers

Set Design: Beowulf Boritt
Costume Design: Amy Clark, Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting Design: Ken Billington
Sound Design: Scott Lehrer, Drew Levy
Video/Projection Design: Jon Driscoll
Hair/Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Makeup Design: Angelina Avallone
Casting: Telsey + Company
Patrick Goodwin, CSA
Vocal & Dialect Coach: Beth McGuire
Production Stage Manager: Kim Vernace
Company Manager: Bruce Kagel
Technical Supervisor: Chris Smith/Smitty
Flying Effects: Flying by Foy
General Management: Roy Gabay Productions
Music Director/Vocal Arrangements: Bryan Perri
Orchestrations: Larry Hochman
Music Coordinator: Howard Joines
Dance Arrangements: Bryan Perri & Christopher Curtis
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 13, 2012

The new musical, Chaplin, starring Rob McClure as Charlie and all his lead film characters, like the Little Tramp and Hitler, is set in Beowulf Boritt’s steel and grey, just like the movie sets of the early twentieth century. This show is not only endearing and entertaining, it’s also educational. The audience experiences the early history of movies, from silent to talkies, and, more significantly, the transformation and inventions and artistry of Charlie Chaplin. Mr. McClure is a talented singer, actor, dancer, who brings enormous pathos to the stage, especially in the flashback scenes, as he watches himself being deserted, as his mother, Hannah (Christiane Noll), is hospitalized in an asylum. Flashback scenes bring out Zachary Unger as young Charlie, a kid with a future on New York stages. Charlie’s brother, Sid, is Wayne Alan Wilcox, the character that serves as Charlie’s center and conscience. It’s Sid, who persuades Charlie to visit, later on, his dying mother, in a gripping scene. Sid takes care of Charlie’s books and business and offers opinions on Charlie’s many youthful lovers and multiple wives, who replenish his deep void of loss

One of my favorite scenes is a boxing ring, with Charlie’s three ex-wives boxing, each holding a bigger stash of cash. Charlie’s fourth wife, Oona O’Neill (Erin Mackey), is his soul-mate and savior, who stands by him in wealth and in desolation. Emilee Dupré is Joan Barry, whom Charlie almost marries, amidst much controversy, and Jenn Colella is Hedda Hopper, a scorned journalist, who seeks revenge for an interview rejection, with hell’s fury. Hayley Podschun plays Mildred Harris, Charlie’s first teenage wife, who falsely exudes a pregnancy. Michael McCormick is Hollywood filmmaker, Mack Sennett, who demands a new character and gets the zillion dollar “Tramp”. Jim Borstelmann is Alf Reeves, an indispensable friend to Charlie. The flashbacks are rampant throughout the musical, with present, recent past, and remote past intersecting in spotlights like a Venn diagram. Ken Billington’s lighting is quite effective here.

Christopher Curtis and Thomas Meehan created the book, music, and lyrics, and Warren Carlyle choreographed and directed. The music is forgettable, except for “All Falls Down” and “Where are All the People”. But, the music was atmospheric, amorphous, even atonal at times. Songs ranged from Charlie’s “If I Left London” to Oona’s “What Only Love Can See”. I didn’t leave the show with many tunes replaying in my mind, but I did leave with an image, the Gestalt of a magical event. The show opens with Charlie as the Little Tramp on a high wire, with the cast below singing to him, “What’cha Gonna Do?”, which actually did stay with me for a day or so. Mr. McClure has a strong vocal talent, reaches notes with clarity, and shifts through the many highs and lows of Charlie’s roller-coaster life line. When he enacts Chaplin as film star, like twirling his hat on a cane or in a bit from “The Kid”, with Zachary Unger as Jackie Coogan, you can lose a sense of event and feel like you’re at the movies. In fact, Jon Driscoll’s historical projections are very intrinsic to the show’s authenticity. Amy Clark and Martin Pakledinaz created costumes most effective in the long full dresses of Charlie’s many women. Mr. Carlyle’s choreography shone in a number with the ensemble all in Little Tramp motif. Kudos to Charlie Chaplin.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at