Broadway has certainly had its share of successes with biographical musicals - George M!, Funny Girl, The Will Rogers Follies and, currently, Jersey Boys. All of them are about entertainers and what made them work is a subject of certain charisma, charm, appeal, and enough scandal/controversy/tragedy to make their personal drama at least as interesting as the entertainment they provided in real life.
And so it would seem that Charlie Chaplin would be the perfect choice for a musical. His life - several wives, a penchant for under aged girls, his immigration to America, his eventual exile for being branded "un-American", and his triumphant return to collect an honorary Oscar before his death - was at least as interesting as what he was famous for. To that end, Chaplin was a brilliant comedian (his Little Tramp is still as iconic as Marilyn Monroe over the subway grate or Lucy's fire red hair) and a pioneer in front of and behind the camera.
Charlie Chaplin and the women in his life.
(Jake Evan Schwenke, Ashley Brown, Robert McClure and Jenn Colella)
With a book by master Thomas Meehan, one would expect a streamlining, but with an affection and respect for the subject while being vastly entertaining. Granted this is only the World Premiere, and lots of work could still happen, but so far of the reviews I read (HERE and HERE) complained about the uneven and wide range of the book. Interestingly, the score by Christopher Curtis barely gets a mention. The production stills certainly match what has been written about the cinematic/theatrical style of the direction and choreography by Warren Carlyle and Michael Unger. The lighting design by Paul Gallo, and the scenic design by Alexander Dodge certainly looks interesting and theatrical.
The Limelight Company
Naturally, the cast interests me, even though should the piece go anywhere from here, it seems unlikely all of them would make it to the end of the rainbow. The current cast boasts some of my favorite 21st Century Broadway actors: Ashley Brown, Jenn Colella, Matthew Scott, and as Chaplin, Robert McClure. All of them always do quality work and are a tribute to their generation. It would be so nice to see Ms. Colella ans Mr. McClure particularly finally get a show that is fully up to their abilities.
Robert McClure as Chaplin (left) and as his alter-ego, The Little Tramp (right).
Maybe it is the subject matter that is so hard to capture. After all, another silent film giant, Mack Sennett got the musical treatment, and it was a flop, if beloved, musical - Mack and Mabel. Where Limelight goes from here is anyone's guess, but it seems like a great idea for a musical, and I hope this isn't the last we see of it.
Here is b-roll/commercial footage of the show:
(Photos by Craig Schwartz)
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