The life and career of silent film star Charlie Chaplin hits the stage with the new musical Chaplin, now playing at the Barrymore Theatre.
For those unfamiliar with the man behind the funny little mustache, Chaplin offers an interesting biographical sketch that touches on his vaudeville days in London, his massive Hollywood success, and the controversial turn to politics that led to career-ending charges of communism.
But Chaplin does still have a lot going for it. The show is well directed by Warren Carlyle, and features a fairly simple but attractive and effective set design by Beowulf Boritt. The costuming, which sticks to shades of black, white, and gray throughout most of the show, creates a sense of period, evoking the old days of black and white movies. Film footage is also nicely integrated into the show at key points, helping to remind us of Charlie Chaplin's brilliance on screen. Chaplin's score (written by Christopher Curtis) is not especially memorable, but it works well in the context of the show. And, unlike many musicals, Chaplin isn't unnecessarily over-stuffed with songs. But this musical's greatest asset is certainly the actor playing Charlie Chaplin, Rob McClure.
In a star-making performance, McClure offers a fully-formed character, showing us a naive young showman as he grows into a true artist, one who wrestles with his own massive ego and eventually with the frustration of feeling forgotten. It's amazing how effortlessly McClure transforms from Chaplin the man into the "Little Tramp" character that defined him on the silver screen. It's a wonderful performance and helps to make Chaplin well worth seeing on stage, despite its flaws.