A silent musical? Chaplin’s life becomes a Broadway show

GregJohnson May 14, 2012 2
A silent musical? Chaplin’s life becomes a Broadway show

He made his first appearance on stage at just five-years-old and would make a name for himself in the music halls of London before becoming the most famous silent film star in the world. Now, the life of Charlie Chaplin has been transformed into a musical.

The idea of a musical to chart the life of a mostly silent star may seem strange to some, but Christopher Curtis has given his stage bound tale of Chaplin a voice by composing the music and lyrics for the show, which will debut on August 21 at the Barrymore Theater, New York.

Chaplin will be directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, who was praised for his work on Hugh Jackman’s Back on Broadway.

Before it was picked up as a potential Broadway hit, the musical’s original production debuted at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2010 under the title Limelight: The Story of Charlie Chaplin. As the show was developed for Broadway however so too was its name, first to Becoming Chaplin before later being retracted down simply to the name of the man himself.

Although bound for the famous stages of New York, theatregoers in the UK have the opportunity to see another new production of Chaplin, before the Broadway version launches over the pond.

This separate production has been produced by the Guildhall School of Music and Dramaand is set to premiere at London’s Barbican Centre on June 26 with a 25-piece orchestra. The show features choreography by Top Hat’s Bill Deamer, new musical arrangements by Steve Edis and is directed by Martin Connor.

Whilst predominantly known for his silent slapstick, some of Chaplin’s later work, in which he spoke in what were known then as talkies, have become popular online thanks to uploaded clips on YouTube.

Iconic scenes such as his emotive, closing speech from the political satire, The Great Dictator, have been shared across blogs, Facebook profiles and beyond, spreading not just Chaplin’s work but also opening people’s eyes to his acting abilities beyond comedy

A Chaplin biopic is not the only new musical based on a famous public figure to come to Broadway this year either, with a musical about country singer Loretta Lynn announced only last week.

Based on the 1980 film biopic of her life, Coal Miner’s Daughter will place actress and singer Zooey Deschanel in the lead role.

Lynn revealed the news during a Grand Ole Opry show, calling Zooey up on stage for a rendition of the title number from the movie.

Back in 1979, Lynn unveiled Sissy Spacek in the same way as the woman to play her in the movie of her life. Spacek went on to win an Oscar for her portrayal.

Deschanel is no stranger to taking the lead on vocals. As well as frequently singing in her TV and film roles and on soundtracks, she has released three albums as part of folk-rock band She & Him.

Following a recent string of movie to stage adaptations, a trend that arguably reached its peak with the troubled Broadway production of Spiderman, it is thought that musical biographies could be the next big thing for writers seeking fresh inspiration for a new show.

Whose life or career would you like to see captured in the top budget musical? What do you think of the forthcoming Chaplin and Loretta Lynn productions?

  • http://chaplinthemusical.com Jeff Haller

    The original Broadway-bound “Chaplin” musical is premiering as a full production at London’s Barbican Centre in June, produced by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Not a pop score. This ambitious undertaking by the prestigious school features choreography by TOP HAT’s Bill Deamer and direction by Martin Connor. Also a 25 piece orchestra with all new orchestrations by Steve Edis.

    • GregJohnson

      Thanks for the comment Jeff. We’ll add this into the post.