The Charlie Chaplin musical “Chaplin” is slated to make its Broadway debut on September 10 at the Barrymore Theatre, but critics fear that a lack of well-known actors may hurt the production when it comes to drawing large audiences.
The production ran in 2010 at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse under the name “Limelight: The Story of Charlie Chaplin” and received mixed reviews; however, the show earned the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle’s Craig Noel Award for Best Musical, according to Entertainment Weekly. The musical, which chronicles the story of silent film icon Charlie Chaplin as he moved from London to become a Hollywood film star, will begin previews on August 21 according to The New York Times.
While most are reporting that casting has not yet been announced, according to Forbes, the main roles of Chaplin and his wife Oona O’Neill have been offered to Rob McClure and Ashley Brown, the actors who originally played the parts during the show’s run at the La Jolla Playhouse. While the names are mostly unknown in the Broadway world, McClure acted in “Avenue Q” and Brown did in fact play the original “Mary Poppins.”
Although a lack of star power may be viewed as a weakness, a story on the Forbes website pointed out that shows such as “Once,” “Newsies,” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” have no big names among their cast but are nominated for several Tony Awards this year.
“When it comes to the more successful musicals during the past two seasons the more profitable ones have been shows without big name stars,” said J. William Bruce, a sales rep at Applause-Tickets.com in a recent email to TicketNews. “Shows like last year’s big Tony winner ‘The Book of Mormon,’ which doesn’t have any stars at all and is the most popular show in the past eight years. Now do I think that the producers of ‘Chaplin’ will try to attract a big name? My guess is yes. Any producer that is trying to mount a new production in this economy will always look for a way to sell tickets.”
According to reports by Entertainment Weekly, Warren Carlyle of Finian’s Rainbow will continue to direct “Chaplin” with music and lyrics by Christopher Curtis in his Broadway debut.
In a September 2010 review of “Limelight,” Charles McNulty of The Los Angeles Times, said that the musical “doesn’t rise to the challenge with anything resembling bold invention,” but according to recent reports by The LA Times producers for the show said that the musical has been restructured since its run at La Jolla.