Review Roundup: CHAPLIN Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Broadway’s new musical CHAPLIN opened tonight, September 10 at the Barrymore Theatre. CHAPLIN is a new musical depicting the life of film icon Charlie Chaplin, with music and lyrics by Christopher Curtis and book by Thomas Meehan and Christopher Curtis. Warren Carlyle directs and choreographs the production.

CHAPLIN stars Rob McClure in the title role, and also features Jim Borstelmann (Alf Reeves), Jenn Colella (Hedda Hopper), Erin Mackey (Oona O’Neill), Michael McCormick (Sennett, McGranery, Emcee), Christiane Noll (Hannah Chaplin), Zachary Unger (Young Charlie, Jackie) and Wayne Alan Wilcox (Sydney Chaplin).

Did the show charm the critics? Let's find out...

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: More broadly, though, this sour-smell-of-success story…is steeped in a sense that Chaplin the person, as opposed to Chaplin the fabled silent comedian, has gone missing in action, devoured by a swarm of man-eating clichés….The lens through which we see most of “Chaplin,” though, is blurred, as if with Vaseline. In his 1964 autobiography Chaplin made it clear that he had little use for most interpretations of his psyche, whether high-brow (via Freud or W. Somerset Maugham) or low (the gutter press and fan magazines). So I shudder to think what he might have made of the psychiatrist’s couch he’s been plopped on for “Chaplin: The Musical.”

Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press: The new musical "Chaplin" opens with the sight of the Little Tramp balanced on a tightrope high above the stage. It's a fitting metaphor for the show itself – a wobbly, high stakes attempt to avoid gravity. Guess what happens? Gravity wins…Rob McClure in the title role certainly deserves more than this to work with. He has clearly put his heart and soul into playing Chaplin – he not only sings and acts with feeling, he also tightropes, roller-skates blindfolded, does a backflip without spilling any of his drink, and waddles with a cane like a man who has studied hours of flickering footage. But save for one sublime scene in which the various inspirations behind Chaplin's decision to embody the Little Tramp is revealed, the show McClure leads is equal parts flat, overwrought and tiresome.

Steven Suskin, Variety: The most treacherous part of producing a biomusical about an iconic performer is finding an actor who can convincingly handle the role. The producers of "Chaplin" -- this fall's first Broadway offering -- have passed that difficult test, with relative newcomer Rob McClure proving a small wonder as the Little Tramp. But they have come up all thumbs, alas, in the writing and staging departments. In the hands of composer-lyricist Chris Curtis (who has penned theme songs for the Discovery Channel) and Curtis' co-librettist Tom Meehan ("Annie," "The Producers"), Chaplin's remarkable life veers into cliche.

Matt Windman, AM New York: You've probably seen worse musicals than "Chaplin," a forgettable biography of Charlie Chaplin. But how did this slow-paced and sentimental musical, which has the taste of a cup of coffee mixed with a dozen packets of sugar, make it to Broadway? The songs of Christopher Curtis - who has previously written theme songs for the Discovery Channel - are occasionally tuneful but mostly tacky. Still, they are far better than the show's melodramatic and strange book…Even if "Chaplin" were a better crafted musical, it would still remain a mostly futile enterprise. Why see an impersonation of Chaplin instead of just watching Chaplin himself in his best films?

Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune: Despite an enigmatic, career-making performance from Rob McClure in the title role, an earnest turn from Wayne Alan Wilcox as his tag-along brother Sydney, and an engaging performance from Erin Mackey as Chaplin's late-in-life love Oona, "Chaplin" is a musical where the material is just not up to the complexity of its enigmatic subject. It's impossible to believe that the creator of such masterpieces as "Modern Times" and "The Gold Rush" would express himself in such prosaic, cliched terms. He may not have spoken in his works, but he surely was thinking up a storm with every twitch of his Tramp's eyebrows.

Elysa Gardner, USA Today: There are surely few harder-working men in show business right now than Rob McClure, the immensely likeable star of the new Broadway musical Chaplin. In the title role, that of film legend Charlie Chaplin, McClure begins the show literally walking a high wire. For more than two hours, he is the dominant figure onstage, aging from a teenager to an octogenarian while alternately channeling his character's unique genius for physical comedy and singing his guts out. As if that's not enough, Chaplin's leading man must also traverse a book...with enough mawkish melodrama to fuel a dozen silent-film parodies. It's this last aspect that ultimately sinks what might have been an exciting new work, and still manages to be, in substantial chunks, an entertaining one.


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