The Story of Young Charlie

Late in 1981, veteran Broadway producer Don Gregory brought together Emmy award-winning writer Ernest Kinoy, DC Comics writer and lyricist Lee Goldsmith, and freshman composer Roger Anderson to develop a musical based on the early life of Charlie Chaplin.

Ernest Kinoy's script did not concentrate on Chaplin's years as an international star, or on the controversies that peppered his career. His later life, his stardom, his marriages, his politics – all were excluded. Rather, attention was paid to the things that molded Chaplin's character, and inevitably led him to become "the tramp" we all remember. Kinoy also hinted at Chaplin's parenting by characters from the Commedia dell'Arte who haunt the play. The score, while remaining true to its Broadway roots, would celebrate song as biography in ever-changing period styles and reference classical music influences which Charlie himself would embrace later in his career.

Director|Choreographer Joe Layton, fresh from his success with Barnum, renowned designer Tony Walton, famed musical director Wally Harper and star John Rubinstein soon joined the production and the title was to be changed to "Chaplinesque." The show was fully cast, but just days before first rehearsal financial troubles forced postponements and the eventual demise of the project.

Wayne LeGetteIn 1993, the abandoned script and score were re-discovered and a revised version was produced in Miami at the Shores Performing Arts Center. Although less ambitious than the original, The Miami Herald praised the project as "thoughtful, accessible and emotionally involving," adding the music "excels throughout" and matched with "droll, witty and bittersweet" lyrics. The production featured Wayne LeGette (photo) as Charlie and in 1994 CHAPLIN won a prestigious Carbonell Award as Best New Work. [Click here to listen to audio from the 1993 Miami Production]

Larry RabenIn 2001, a second production was mounted at the Golden Apple Theatre in Sarasota, Florida under the direction of Robert Turoff. Larry Raben starred as Charlie (photo).


Simon BlackhallIn 2012, London audiences saw the first full production of the 1982 Broadway-bound version which premiered at the Barbican's Silk Street Theatre, produced by the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Simon Blackhall starred as Charlie (photo). Directed by Martin Connor, choreographed by Bill Deamer, and arranged for a 21-piece orchestra by Steve Edis, this production marks the beginning for a long-delayed theatrically rich musical.

"Ernest Kinoy's play navigates the dramatic highs and lows in the life of the screen's comic genius, beginning with the impoverished London East End childhood he shared with his emotionally unbalanced but loving mother and his protective older brother Sydney ... CHAPLIN is a triumph for everyone involved!"

— The Miami Herald