Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Chaplin" Gets Clobbered by the Critics

[post 277]

In my last post, I praised Rob McClure in the title role of Chaplin: The Musical but worried about the rest of the show — books, music, choreography, all those incidentals — being strong enough to justify Broadway prices. I was expecting lukewarm reviews but obviously I was way too optimistic. When I saw the word "soppy" in the second sentence of the NY Times review, I knew the show was in trouble.

Reviews are often all over the place, but so far these have been remarkably consistent: Mc Clure was great but under-utilized, while the show itself was flat and unimaginative, with the music and lyrics especially disappointing. A few sample critiques:

Ben Brantley, New York Times:
"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....

"Mr. McClure... does a lovely impersonation of the Little Tramp that captures the heartbreaking grace in that character’s embattled dignity. Delivering the anguished lines of the self-destructive egotist that Chaplin became, he perversely tends to fade into the gray. This may be a mercy, given the lines he has to say. It’s hard not to sympathize with the character who tells him, 'I miss the days when you didn’t speak.'”
Full review here

Associated Press (from the Washington Post, name of writer not provided):
"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.

"What opened Monday at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre tries hard to be something to everyone and in the process becomes less than anything. The great Charlie Chaplin deserves better... It’s technically a musical, but one without a single memorable song.... 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." 
Full review here

Photo by Joan Marcus.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News:
"In the musical Chaplin, sets and costumes come in black and white. Unfortunately, so does the storytelling in this cut-and-dried bio about the complicated silent-film legend Charlie Chaplin.... The way Chaplin stands now, it’s modestly entertaining. But in a story in which Chaplin often talks about the magic of the flickers, one yearns for more flickers of magic."
Full review here

Elysa Gardner, USA Today:
"Even while trumpeting Chaplin's accomplishments, the musical reduces one of the most distinctive talents of the 20th century to a sentimental figure largely defined by his relationships with women... Luckily, there are moments of levity and more direct nods to Chaplin's artistic inspiration, and director/choreographer Warren Carlyle serves both with a deft mix of passion and playfulness."
Full review here

The weeklies will be weighing in during the next few days and once they do you should be able to see all the reviews at I have a feeling, though, that if you want to catch Mc Clure's performance, aim to get there sooner rather than later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Such a shame!