Chaplin: The Musical, or rather, Was This Really Necessary?

So, now they’ve made a Broadway musical out of Chaplin’s life. I guess it had to happen sooner or later. I haven’t seen it and I’m loathe to judge it based solely on the New York Times review I read so lets just wax philosophical about the idea in general.

Why? Why do we need a musical based on Chaplin’s life? I guess you could ask why we need any piece of art, and in a sense that’s not really a fair question. But in this case I can say with impunity: WHY? Leave Chaplin alone.

And this goes for all would be clowns out there and all the physical theatre artists that are inspired by his slap-schtick. Let him inspire you but don’t just copy him. That ain’t enough anymore. And it does a disservice to our audience. What our audience needs is a new Chaplin, someone who can speak about our times in the same way. Chaplin was sublimely funny and he had a big heart. He was also courageous and knew how to use the comedic gesture to make an unequivocal political statement. That’s what we need more of.

If all you do is reproduce Chaplin or Keaton or Tati or Bill Irwin or whoever or whatever you love, you think is cool, then you’re just perpetuating the same commodifying impulse that drives the ideology behind the Hollywood remake. Remakes are for the market. They have market value. They are impoverished artistically. Re-inventions are harder to come by because they force you to think harder, look deeper and to open your eyes to what’s happening around you.

So, please, from the bottom of my heart, leave Charlie alone. He had a great run and now let the rest of us get on with it. Or, go see a show by his grandson, James Thiéree. That guys amazing and he’s still alive!

Ok. I’ll get off my high horse now because I have to keep practicing that hat trick I stole… 🙂


Posted on November 14, 2012, in Homepage and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hey nice Blog, but I really think you should watch the show. There’s very little ‘clowning’ in it, although where it is used, it is truly excellent.
    The show is about Chaplin. Not the Little Tramp. So we see an almost biographical walk through of the key points in his life.
    It’s entertaining, informative and set to beautiful music. You leave feeling as though you’ve had a good night, and learnt something.
    As to whether it was necessary… It’s a good question, but I think it really honors Chaplin’s memory very nicely, and it seems that A LOT of people are ignorant about him and his life. So if it brings him back to a new audience then I think it serves a purpose.

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