Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: SEPTEMBER 24, 2010
Misery demands ingenuity. In two displays of tough times set to music, dire circumstances beget creative and comical responses. In “Limelight,” pitfalls turn to pratfalls. And in “The Full Monty,” barely getting by leads to baring it all.
The strip-to-raise-money musical, “The Full Monty,” based on the sleeper hit film of 1997, originated at the Old Globe in 2000, and went on to great acclaim on Broadway. Now it’s back, at the Welk Resort Theatre, in an energetic and enjoyable production, well cast and well sung. The theme of men who feel like “Scrap” because they’re out of work is more relevant than ever. And unique to this version, you actually get to see the Full Monty at the end (at least for a moment). The first act feels a little forced, but the second act zips along, the accompaniment is lively and the suspense cleverly builds to the grand finale. So, go on, expose yourself to a homegrown musical.
And while you’re at it, check out the world premiere of “Limelight, the Story of Charlie Chaplin,” at the La Jolla Playhouse. In addition to the onstage conflict and adversity, the show had a little backstage drama. Director Michael Unger was off the project shortly after rehearsals began, so choreographer Warren Carlyle stepped in. That may account for one of the major shortcomings of the likable but ultimately unsatisfying new work. Ironically, the great silent film comedian-turned-director says what interests him most is character. And that’s what’s in short supply here .
We’re shown snippets of Chaplin’s hardscrabble beginnings: Victorian England, absent father; and a destitute mother whose two young sons were taken away and sent to a workhouse, while she descended into madness. We see the wildly imaginative comic antics, the brilliant creation of the Little Tramp, the rise to superstardom, and then the Big Fall. According to the play, Chaplin was brought down by a thwarted Hedda Hopper, the unscrupulous gossipmonger who accused him of being a Communist. But his hubris helped foster his exile, too, as did his tendency to bed and marry startlingly young women.
We get the highlights, but not the inner workings of the man. And except for the villainous Hopper, nicely played by Jenn Colella , there really are no other characters, though 20 performers share the stage. Rob McClure is spectacular with the Chaplinesque physical comedy. If only we’d get to know the guy a little better. The book is clever, penned by Christopher Curtis and musical theater veteran Thomas Meehan, but Curtis’ music and lyrics are derivative and unmemorable. The production values – set, costumes, staging, lighting, projections, arrangements and accompaniment – are superb.
Clearly, this is a work in progress. A great story, not yet told in an emotionally gripping way. But as with all new musicals, changes are being made daily. So the show you see may be a whole other, Broadway-bound ball of theatrical wax.
“Limelight” continues through October 17, at the La Jolla Playhouse.
“The Full Monty” also runs through October 17, at the Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido .
©2010 PAT LAUNER