By Chad Pritchard
“You never know what’s going to happen with live theater” seemed to be the theme at the WaterTower Theater Saturday evening. During the fourth night of the run of “Chaplin the Musical,” which is based on Charlie Chaplin’s life, the show was paused for half an hour during the first act due to technical difficulties backstage, and then, a curtain mishap in the beginning fourth act hardly took away from the beautiful performances of the actors, in what could have been a disastrous night. The cast shined in the face of these difficulties, and one could hardly notice the mishaps as they performed brilliantly through them.
Shane Peterman’s direction of the Musical was every bit as good as the run on Broadway.
Lauren Mikael Weber as Hannah Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin’s mother, set the tone of the show with a beautiful rendition of “Look At All the People,” sung to comfort a young Charlie. Weber, a veteran of stage, has a gorgeous voice and recovered unflappably after the show was stopped just before her number “What’cha Gonna Do,” proving what a true professional she is.
The main highlight of the production was Max J Swarner as The Little Tramp, Charlie Chaplin. Swarner has a powerful voice, with depth and soul. He captured the man Chaplin as was in life and the characters he embodied on stage and screen. Playing essentially two characters, the complex and vivid Chaplin and the characters Chaplin created could be no small feat, but Swarner moved between the character of the Little Tramp and the man that immortalized him, flawlessly.
Swarner was at the top of his game, carrying the show with several numbers including “Far From London,” “Something Funny” where we see The Little Tramp for the first time, and “Where Are All the People,” a deeply emotional song that to which Swarner gave life and heart. Swarner made us believe that we were watching the actual Chaplin on stage and his acting transported us from an intimate black box theatre in Addison to London and Hollywood. He was that good.
As good as Swarner was as Charlie, he couldn’t carry the entire production on his own though. Supporting ensemble cast members were all extremely talented, with Duke Anderson as Sydney Chaplin, Kylie Stewart as Chaplin wife Oona O’Neill and Allison Arroyo as a very Young Charlie all added greatly to the show.
“Chaplin the Musical” opened November 8, and runs until November 19 at the WaterTower Theatre in Addison, with matinee and evening performances priced at $43. Be sure not to miss this one.