Chaplin: The Musical

Music and Lyrics By: Christopher Curtis

Book By: Thomas Meehan

Distributed by: Masterworks Broadway

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                When I was a small kid, Halloween meant dressing up in things my Mom came up with.  One year, I wanted to be a cowboy, so Mom made me Annie Oakley.  I had no clue who Annie Oakley was, but that didn't matter.  Then, one year, my Mom saw a derby in the store and got an idea: I could be Charlie Chaplin.  Before I could protest, she reminded me just who Chaplin was - that cool tramp in the silent films I'd seen wearing a bowler hat, a funny little mustache, with an animated walk and a neat thin walking stick.  I had a lot of fun pretending to be Charlie Chaplin that year and eventually learned more about the man behind the tramp costume. 

                In 2006, a new musical debuted in New York at the New York Music Theatre Festival.  Based on the life of the actor, Chaplin: The Musical debuted at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2010 and then on Broadway in 2012.  When Masterworks Broadway announced that they would be releasing the Original Cast Recording of Chaplin: The Musical in digital format in December 2012 and CD in January 2013, I couldn't wait to take a listen and learn more about the silent film actor.

                The musical follows Chaplin's humble beginnings and his mother's teachings about using imagination to bring about happiness in every day situations (Look At All the People).  We discover young Chaplin's entertaining abilities when he takes over for his mom in the song Whatcha Gonna Do?   We follow Chaplin to America where he embarks on his career in silent films (If I Left London, Sennett Song) and his success as The Tramp (The Tramp Shuffle). 

                But not everything is rosy for Charlie Chaplin and the musical also takes us through the eventual decline of the actor, criticism of his personal life and the accusations regarding Communism (All Falls Down, Man of All Countries, What Only Love Can See, The Exile).  The album ends on a brighter note with Chaplin being recognized for his career in films (This Man, Finale/Tramp Reprise).

                I found the Original Cast Recording of Chaplin: The Musical to be quite enjoyable, with fun, carnival-like music, catchy lyrics and a great story told through song.  Sure, the musical may not be entirely accurate, but they do get pretty close and offer up an idea of what it was like for Chaplin from boyhood to stardom to falling star to final recognition and validation.  I enjoyed the talents of Rob McClure, Zachary Unger, Christiane Noll, Erin Mackey and Jenna Colella whose vocals led distinction to the lyrics. 

                All-in-all, the Original Cast Recording of Chaplin: The Musical was an incredibly enjoyable experience that I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of Chaplin's work or a fan of Broadway musicals.


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