The new musical about Charlie Chaplin is nicely designed, affectionate, and fairly well played, but kind of dull.
Being fascinated by the magical artistry of Chaplin–as we all are–doesn’t necessarily mean you’d thrill to recreations of fragments from his personal life, interspersed with a handful of career high points, all set to pretty but mostly unmemorable songs.
Act One does so in a blandish way, but fortunately, the second half is somewhat less sleep-inducing, since the story of gossip columnist Hedda Hopper conspiring to destroy Chaplin is more interesting than the star-is-born stuff, and leading man Rob McClure is best at playing the declining Chaplin.
He even gets a hot 11 o’clock number (“Where Are All The People?”) that in the old days would have been the type of thing you could pull out and sing on The Ed Sullivan Show.
McClure doesn’t have the spark of star power that would sell you on Charlie’s dark, driving ego, but he’s committed, especially when given better bits (like Charlie turning off the sound on a Hitler speech and interspersing his own comic words, as preparation for The Great Dictator).
But a general sense of futility won’t go away, even in the moments when the authors bravely aim for Kander-and-Ebbish satire over biopic formula.
Still, I have to give the cast a lot of credit.
For about 30 minutes last night, a loud, piercing alarm (or something) that sounded like the shrieking violin from Psycho kept sounding in the house, and they kept on going, undeterred.
I guess doing a show about a silent movie star allowed them to not hear anything distracting.