BEHIND THE LIMELIGHT @ New York Musical Theatre Festival
Music and Lyrics By Christopher Curtis, Book by Christoper Curtis and Tom Meehan
Choreographed by Jennifer Paulson Lee, Musical Director Bryan Perri, Set Design by Adrien Noble, Costumes by , Lighting by Joel Silver
(Reviews Below Slideshow)
A genuinely moving portrait that well deserves development.
The evening is most effective early on, in its depiction of Chaplin’s troubled childhood and his early beginnings in British music halls and vaudeville. The story is framed as a flashback, with the elderly Chaplin (a very moving Robert Langdon Lloyd) reminiscing about his life and watching the proceedings from a chair at the side of the stage.
Also well done are the sequences involving Chaplin’s breaking into the “flickers,” particularly the sequence in which he develops his on-screen persona before our eyes.
Director Michael Unger’s staging is highly effective, particularly in the moving final moments featuring all three Chaplin incarnations onstage together. – NY Post
Behind the Limelight — is just about a perfect template for a Broadway musical circa the 1960s, and that’s meant as a compliment. It celebrates without irony a mythic personality — in this case, Charlie Chaplin — with a script that deftly sketches characters and events and an ample, melodious score that helps move the story along. Build a few big production numbers around some songs and smooth the second act’s rough edges and it should be ready to go.
Granted, Anthony Newley did a Chaplin musical in 1983 that never made it to New York. But it would be nice to think that Broadway today might still have a stage available for this accomplished new effort, even with its traditional trappings.
The show, under Michael Unger’s artful direction, takes Chaplin from impoverished childhood in London to overwhelming success and philandering in Hollywood, capped by his expulsion from the country to spend his final days in domestic bliss with his last wife, Oona. – Backstage
The best way to describe this musical biography of Charlie Chaplin is to quote one of its own songs—”it is wonderful.” It’s a superb combination of song, dance and story. “It is wonderful when the life you wished for becomes real,” Charlie writes in a letter to Syd. It is also wonderful when a fantastic show is made from it. – Curtain Up
With the bases loaded, a grand slam right out of the Theatre at St. Clements with this new musical Behind The Limelight – based on the life and career of the infamous “Little Tramp” Charlie Chaplin. What a fantastic show. What an entertaining backstage look at Chaplin – as a child, as a star and as an old man. It takes three actors – all superb – to fill Chaplin’s controversial shoes. As a young boy (Danny Hallowell) who learns from his mum to watch people and learn from them to the vaudevillian on his way to stardom (Luther Creek) who does a smashing job of inhabiting the soul of Chaplin without making a caricature out of him to the old man (Robert Langdon Lloyd) who bookends the show with grace, dignity and wonderment. [There is] some super help to mount this complicated yet clear as can be story in the name of director Michael Unger – who deserves his own bottle of champagne to celebrate their joint success.
There are times when a show begins and you just know that you are in for something extraordinarily special – this is such a show. It has a great story that is told in a concise and taught manner – you get all the points needed to me made without any excess fat which lead right into what matters most in a musical. I can’t remember the last original cast recording I purchased but this one will be immediately scooped up when it’s available. Whatever you feel about his political alliances, Chaplin was a consummate performer, known worldwide, and you will be moved to tears by the last song of the show, “This Man”. Charlie Chaplin wanted to make the world laugh and cry at the same time – at the foibles of humanity. Behind the Limelight does just that with Chaplin’s life. Splendidly. See it. – Talk Entertainment
Musical biographies of icons are tricky: Audiences come in with some knowledge and an image in their heads. Often, there’s a lot of history to cover. Charlie Chaplin is certainly a legend of early cinema history; the decades of historical distance combined with the fame coming from silent movie visuals give Behind The Limelight a better shot. Others have tried to step into his shoes and capture his magic before, and this attempt is respectable, intriguing and noble. I’m glad I saw this production and find many positive aspects in it and its heart is in the right place. When it’s all complete, the audience bursts into applause because they’ve been let in on the magic rather than shut out. Michael Unger directs this ambitious, full-length show with some bold choices and it fills the eye, the mind and the heart. – Edge NY
This was the most polished and wonderfully orchestrated show I saw. The story was told in a very moving and clever fashion. The final moment in which the old Charlie tips his hat to the audience and walks into a screen that then shows the real Chaplin walking with back towards the audience was a memorable theatrical moment. It was breathtaking. A sequence in which Charlie takes on his persona with costume and physicality was stage brilliance. The moment received a wild round of applause. I do see this show arriving on Broadway in the near future. – The Theatre Addict