Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Charlie Chaplin, the silent movie star who only reluctantly made the transition to talkies, probably isn’t the ideal subject for a musical. Of course, anything is possible with creative inspiration, so one shouldn’t rule out the prospect of the Tramp powering home an 11 o’clock number.
Unfortunately, the imagination behind “Limelight: The Story of Charlie Chaplin,” which had its world premiere Sunday at La Jolla Playhouse, doesn’t rise to the challenge with anything resembling bold invention. Christopher Curtis, a cabaret artist who wrote the music and lyrics and collaborated on the book with Thomas Meehan (whose veteran résumé includes “Hairspray,” “The Producers,” and “Annie”), allows the most sentimental traditions of musical theater to guide him.
The plot breaks down into a series of comic-strip panels that review Chaplin’s life from his difficult boyhood in England through his heady days of Hollywood success to the personal and political scandals that left him a mellow old man in exile.