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'Chaplin' Makes Early Exit From Broadway

Despite its disappointing New York run, the bio-musical based on the life and career of silent screen legend Charlie Chaplin has announced plans for a U.S. national tour.

Rob McClure
Joan Marcus

NEW YORK -- After struggling at the box office in recent weeks and playing to only 57 percent capacity during the lucrative Thanksgiving period, Chaplin will call it quits on Broadway immediately after the holidays, setting a Jan. 6 closing date.

Depicting the life of Charlie Chaplin, from the slums of London to the uppermost echelon of Hollywood and international fame, the bio-musical features a book by Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers) and Christopher Curtis, who also wrote the music and lyrics.

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Originally seen at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, the show's Broadway run began previews on Aug. 21, and officially opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Sept. 10. Chaplin will close after playing 24 previews and 136 regular performances.

While critics were near-unanimous in their praise for lead actor Rob McClure's virtuoso performance in the title role, reviews were generally mixed on the show's overall merits. The creative team's schematic approach to the overstuffed book took frequent hits, with many pundits similarly underwhelmed by Curtis' score and by Warren Carlyle's direction.

In his review for The Hollywood Reporter, Frank Scheck wrote, "this undeniably heartfelt and ambitious effort fails to live up  to its potential."

Ben Brantley in The New York Times called the show "soppy," adding it is "steeped in a sense that Chaplin the person, as opposed to Chaplin the fabled silent comedian, has gone missing in action, devoured by a swarm of man-eating clichés."

While box office was steady if unspectacular during the show's first month on the boards, with houses around 80 percent capacity or higher, business has been slipping since late October. That decline was accelerated by the impact of Hurricane Sandy on Broadway.

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“We are so disappointed to close this show,” said Mindy Rich, representing the producing team. “We’ve been moved by the countless theatergoers who have loved Chaplin as much as we do. We are so proud of our extraordinary cast and creative team, and Chaplin will live on through productions on our national tour in 2014 and around the world.”

That recently announced tour will be assembled with entertainment agency AWA Partners, beginning in the U.S. in fall 2014, with international dates planned to follow.

January and February traditionally are the toughest months on Broadway; a number of other underperforming shows are expected to post closing notices in the coming weeks.

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