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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
It Opened, Was Recorded, and Closed , all in four months. Nice music, weak packaging pulls it down.
on January 12, 2013
I guess the timing wasn't right for the Broadway run of "Chaplin: The Musical" it opened on September 10, 2012, after three weeks of previews, and the cast album was recorded on November 4th and 5th. The digital version of the album was released on December 4th with the CD to be released on January 8, 2013. The show, however, closed just 2 days before the CD release.
I first heard about the show - with a book by Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and newbie Christopher Curtis with music and lyrics by Curtis - when it played the New York Musical Festival in 2006. It was then titled "Behind the Limelight". I remember hearing a song or two on the internet and waited for an album. When I heard that Sony Masterworks was issuing it, I was really looking forward to it. The CD came last week and, while I like it, I can't say I love it. But that's not the reason for my four star rating. I always expect high quality packaging in Sony Masterworks releases but this one is a letdown and, if you have not seen the show - and now that it is closed, one can only hope for a regional theater revival - you will find yourself lost - as I did (and I know at least something about Chaplin beyond his movies).
I see that the two reviews posted just before me gave five stars and rave about the production. I can only guess that these two well-informed reviewers saw the production. But I could be wrong.
Before I get to the CD itself I'll describe the 12 panel booklet enclosed. Six of the panels are are full page photos. There is one page with cast members and their roles, one page with the recording credits, one page with the production credits and two pages listing the 20 tracks and the characters who sing them. That leaves one page where co-writer Meehan writes four short paragraphs "About Chaplin" telling us why he feels the show covers "the man". What's missing? How about at least a synopsis of the play which notations as to where the songs fit? I can't remember the last OC album I had that didn't contain at least that! There's a major song in Act II where Rob McClure - as Chaplin - sings "The Life That You Wished For", but anyone who only knows Chaplin as a movie star would have no idea of why he was singing this? It's not until Track 18 - where McClure gets to recite the full 30-second speech that Chaplin gave at the 1972 Academy Awards - that a novice would understand Chaplin's exile from the US for political reasons. Sure, I'd love to have the full lyrics included - some words are overpowered by the musicians (which, by the way amount to just a 10-person orchestra) - but if you don't know very much about Chaplin, you will probably be lost without at least a story line. (And don't look to the shows website - I didn't see much there either).
The CD itself runs 52-minutes. The show runs 2 hours and 15 minutes plus intermission. The music is varied and there are some tuneful numbers. The third track "Whatcha Gonna Do?" (which features both the young Charlie, the adult Charlie and his mother - though I don't know why) sounds like it would be right at home in Lionel Bart's "Oliver" since it's a sound-alike to "Consider Yourself". Both scenes take place in England. The obvious "show stopper" on stage must have been "When It All Falls Down" sung by Jenn Colella as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. It's another catchy song.
Now, I'm glad it was recorded for preservation. Many of these shows go unrecorded during their run and then have to be re-created by independent labels like PS Classics (which puts superb booklets in their releases.). I hope this is not the first of cutbacks at Sony Masterworks Broadway. It would be a shame.
So my rating is really a 3.5 stars for the CD release but I'm rounding to four to give it the benefit of the doubt. Just know, going in, what the package contains.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.