- CHARITY BENEFIT
I normally do not read reviews before I see a show, but in the case of Chaplin I did, as I know the director/choreographer Warren Carlyle and I wanted Chaplin to be a hit for him. My videographer/interviewer Magda Katz had seen the show before me and loved it as well as several others I knew, so when I saw the reviews I was stunned. However, if I thought I was stunned before, I am stupefied now and on a mission to help save this wonderful piece of theatre.
Cinematically breathtaking, taking on the hues of a silent film, the new Broadway musical Chaplin, at the Barrymore Theatre, is spectacular. Beowulf Boritt (set), Ken Billington (lighting), Amy Clark and Martin Paklendinaz (costumes) and Jon Driscoll (video projection) all deserve to be nominated come award season. Warren Carlyle’s direction and choreography takes the balancing act of entertainment coupled with the complexity of relationships and gets into the heart and soul of the “Little Tramp.” You leave the theatre wanting to know more. Rob McClure, as the film legend, gives a star performance, as he brings the audience to its feet. He sings, dances, does acrobatic twists and walks a tightrope all while capturing and breaking our hearts. “The Exile,” nearly stops the show. McClure’s performance is not the only standout. Jenn Colella as Hedda Hopper shines as a woman scorned and sets out to destroy the comedian who will not give her an interview. Her material is the meatiest especially in her haunting number “All Falls Down”. Zacharay Unger nearly steals the show as both the young Chaplin and Jackie Coogan, and this kid is bound to win a Theatre World Award. This show has some serious vocal chops and it is glorious to hear.
The book by Christopher Curtis and Thomas Meehan, and score by Curtis, is weak in the first act but comes alive in the second. The show spans nearly 80 years, so even at 2½ hours it is a little overstuffed. As the second act kicks in and the political and emotional journey becomes something that could happen today, it is devastating. The idea that if you do not comply with what someone else wants from you, they can destroy your life, just because, is frightening. In the age of the Internet this has become all too true. Some may find it hard to watch this show because it is dark. The comedy is all that one remembers when you think Chaplin, but watch some of those clips and you will see what most comedians know; that laughter and the ability to make one laugh comes from a deep well of pain. Chaplin’s life was not easy. He was a genius who liked underage women and the girls liked his fame and fortune. He believed that he was a citizen of the world and we should speak up to that defense. Chaplin the Musical, is much like the man – talented; his work so complex it is seen as simplistic and like the man not all will love you after you have been smeared.
Theatregoers, stand up to those telling you that this show is not worthy and judge for yourself. You will be glad you did.
I am naming the multi-talented Chaplin cast because they all shine. Rob McClure (Chaplin), Christine Noll ( Hannah Chaplin), Jim Borstelman (Alf Reeves), Jenn Colella (Hedda Hopper), Erin Mackey (Oona O’Neill), Michael McCormick (Mack Sennet, Charlie Chaplin Sr., McGranery), Zachary Unger (Young Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan), Wayne Alan Wilcox (Sydney Chaplin), Justin Bowen (Ensemble), Emilee Dupre’ (Joan Barry, Ensemble), Sara Edwards (Dance Captain, Ensemble), Leslie Donna Flesner (Swing), Lisa Gajda (Ensemble), Timothy Hughes (Ensemble), Ethan Khusidman (Usher, Ensemble), Ian Liberto (Ensemble), Renee Marino (Ensemble), Michael Mendez (Ensemble), Sarah O’Gleby (Ensemble), Hayley Podschun ( (Mildred Harris, Ensemble), Adam Rogers (Ensemble), William Ryall (Fred Karno, Ensemble), Eric Santagata (Swing) and Emily Tyra (Ensemble).
Chaplin: 243 West 47th. Check times as this show plays at varying hours.
Note: Even Al Pacino thought this was worthy. He was in the audience last night.