BWW Interviews: Broadway¬'s Little Tramp Rob McClure as Charlie Chaplin
The new Broadway musical Chaplin will star Rob McClure who originated the role in the 210 La Jolla production entitled “Limelight” where he won a Craig Noel Award for his portrayal of the little genius in baggy pants.
The new musical about the international star has music and lyrics by Christopher Curtis and book by three-time Tony Award winner Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, and Hairspray) and Curtis. It will open on Broadway on Sept. 10 at the Barrymore Theatre following previews from Aug. 21.
Warren Carlyle (Finian's Rainbow, Hugh Jackman Back on Broadway) directs and choreographs the production. According to the producers of the biographical musical: "From the slums of London to the heights of Hollywood, Chaplin is the showbiz Broadway musical about the silent film legend the world couldn't stop talking about — Charlie Chaplin. The brand new 22-person musical reveals the man behind the legend, the undeniable genius that forever changed the way America went to the movies."
McClure is a two-time Barrymore Award winner who starred as Princeton/Rod in the Tony Award-winning musical Avenue Q. He made his Broadway debut in the 2002 Broadway revival of I'm Not Rappaport, working with Judd Hirsch and Ben Vereen Among his credits are Amadeus (Mozart at Walnut Street Theatre), Little Shop of Horrors (Seymour, The MUNY), The Game's Afoot (world premiere of Ken Ludwig's play at Cleveland Playhouse), The Producers (Carmen Ghia at Walnut Street Theatre), The Flea and the Professor (world premiere at Arden Theatre) and Johnny Baseball (world premiere at American Repertory Theater).
Joining the previously announced Rob McClure in the title role will be principals Jim Borstelmann as Alf Reeves, Jenn Colella as Hedda Hopper, Erin Mackey as Oona O'Neill, Michael McCormick as Sennett/ McGranery/Emcee, Christiane Noll as Hannah Chaplin, Zachary Unger as Young Charlie/Jackie and Wayne Alan Wilcox as Sydney Chaplin.
Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin became the most famous film star in the world before the end of World War I. By the age of 27, Chaplin was prroducing, writing,directing and even composing music and continued entertaining the world for over 75 years of the nearly 88 years of his life.
Martin Sieff, in a review of the book Chaplin: A Life, wrote: "Chaplin was not just 'big', he was gigantic. In 1915, he burst onto a war-torn world bringing it the gift of comedy, laughter and relief while it was tearing itself apart through World War I. Over the next 25 years, through the Great Depression and the rise of Adolf Hitler, he stayed on the job. ... It is doubtful any individual has ever given more entertainment, pleasure and relief to so many human beings when they needed it the most". George Bernard Shaw called Chaplin "the only genius to come out of the movie industry".
Pati Buehler: Just how exciting is it to play one of the most iconic and recognizable characters in American entertainment history?
Rob McClure: It is an absolute thrill and honor to attempt to fill Charlie's gigantic shoes. We've been busting our butts in rehearsal trying to create a riveting piece of theatre worthy of that man. I can't wait for everyone to see it.
PB: Tell us please about “Chaplin boot camp”?
RMcC: Well, as we all know, Chaplin was one hell of a renaissance man. He acted, directed, produced, and composed all of the music for all of his films. He did all of his own stunts, whether on roller skates, or a tight rope. In that same spirit, our show provides me with a similar task. The show, dreamed up by Tom Meehan and Chris Curtis, with brilliant direction and choreography by Warren Carlyle is pushing me to the outer limits. I have been in tightrope lessons, roller skating lessons, violin lessons, singing lessons, and that's OUTSIDE of our regular 10-6 rehearsal day. So I have been a busy bee. It's tough, but playing Chaplin shouldn't be easy.
PB: In our previous BWW interview when you were playing Amadeus you shared this thought; “Whenever I'm asked to portray an actual historic figures it comes with extra accountability. Not just to your Director and Playwright, but to the Man himself and the beloved persona that the public forms. ” Does this sentiment apply to the role of Charlie Chaplin and if so how?
RMcC: 100 Percent! When the person is as beloved as Chaplin, the pressure is REALLY on. People are so incredibly passionate about this man; myself included. I will say, a grandchild of Chaplin's came to see the show in La Jolla, and I was petrified. She had lovely things to say afterwards. The composer Chris Curtis, a few days later, forwarded me an email that he had received from her. She was wondering about a film clip that is projected in the show. She asked Chris which Chaplin film it was from, because her family had spent the last few days trying to hunt it down, and couldn't find it. The clip was of me. We had filmed it outdoors in San Diego. I got goose bumps and proceeded to cry like a child for about a half an hour. The idea that his family could have mistaken me for him, even for a second, was profound for me.
PB: What are you experiencing and learning about this character as created by the new Broadway musical version of Chaplin?
RMcC: I've fallen in love with his aesthetic. He was a complicated man, both in business and his personal life, and it's reflected in his films. Our show has really captured that. For a man who brought joy to millions, he himself had incredible highs and lows. He used his films to reframe his own life. Our show takes the moments from his life, and the moments from his films, and holds them side by side, allowing us to see his genius in a new light.
PB: What do you hope audiences will walk away with from this production?
RMcC: I can not tell you how many people have told me that after seeing our show, they went home and had Chaplin marathons on you tube. If we can be remotely responsible for reintroducing Charlie to generations who may or may not be familiar with him, I will consider that a great reward. I hope people leave with a genuine love and appreciation for the man who forever changed art and entertainment. He is my hero. I mean that.
For more show information, visit www.chaplinbroadway.com.
For more information about Rob, visit his website at www.robmcclure.com
Photo # 1 Headshot - www.robmcclure.com
Photos #3 and #4- Rob McClure as Charlie Chaplin- credited to Joan Marcus