TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “Chaplin: The Musical”
Silent film’s beloved “Little Tramp” gets the full Funny Guy treatment in a new bio-musical directed by Warren Carlyle (Follies) and written by Thomas Meehan (Hairspray) and Christopher Curtis.
“The lens through which we see most of Chaplin, though, is blurred, as if with Vaseline.” New York Times
“As a musical, Chaplin is squarely in the middle of the middle of the pack; as the canny redeployment of an icon, it sometimes flirts with excellence.” New York Magazine
“The producers of Chaplin…have passed that difficult test, with relative newcomer Rob McClure proving a small wonder as the Little Tramp.” Variety
“…a curiously flat affair.” Entertainment Weekly
Mizer’s Two Cents: While swirling handsomely and capturing a generous helping of Chaplin’s comedic gifts, this biography has to work hard to overcome the “and then this happened” quality of condensing an entire life into two and a half hours of stage time.
Warren Carlyle’s staging is often lovely and inventive, particularly in moments where the brute workmanship of filmmaking transforms into the magic of movie dreams. Jenn Colella proves once again that she’s a star in search of the right showcase as she brings ferocious kick and laser focus to her second act turn as a villainous Hedda Hopper. And much-discussed leading man Rob McClure certainly proves to be a gifted physical comedian in addition to creating a touching portrait of an older man unsure of his legacy in the show’s best and final third (with engaging support from a warm Erin Mackey as Oona O’Neill).
See it if you want to catch McClure’s leading performance, if you enjoy ambitious, sprawling tales or if you have a particular fondness for early Hollywood.