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Chaplin - Broadway

A new musical depicting the life of silent film star Charlie Chaplin.

Rob McClure on Channeling Chaplin, Crying at Puppet Camp & Walking a Tightrope

Rob McClure on Channeling Chaplin, Crying at Puppet Camp & Walking a Tightrope
Rob McClure photographed by Jenny Anderson for at Glass House Tavern
When I become the Tramp, I can feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

Age & Hometown: 30; New Milford, New Jersey

Current Role: A star-making turn as screen icon Charlie Chaplin in the new musical Chaplin.

Whistle While You Work: As the middle child between two sisters, McClure grew up outside of Paramus, New Jersey—better known as “the mall capital of the universe.” Although they weren’t performers, McClure insists he inherited his theater genes from his parents. “No one knows this, but my dad can sing his face off,” he says. McClure’s father also taught him to play golf, and in high school the young actor briefly considered going pro. “I love to strive to be good at stuff that’s really hard,” McClure explains, adding that nailing a difficult golf swing makes him “feel like a wizard.” Between statewide golf tournaments and acting in musicals at the Bergen County Players, McClure still summoned enough energy before school to work part-time at the Bagel Factory. “I would be stirring bagels in the kettle by myself and singing the entire score of Les Miz at 4:30 in the morning,” McClure jokes.

Puppet Camp: After graduating from New Milford High School, McClure returned to his alma mater to write and direct a musical based on his old high school job, called (appropriately enough), The Bagel Factory. Developing a new musical for students helped them learn to refrain from imitation and “have the experience of creating an original piece.” After a Broadway debut in I'm Not Rappaport, McClure got his big break in Avenue Q, starring as Princeton despite not having any prior puppeteering experience. “Everybody cries,” the actor remembers the stage manager telling him on the first day of Avenue Q puppet camp. After holding his arm up in the air for seven hours, trying to “make the puppet breathe,” struggling to remember his lines and trying to use the right plosives for each word, McClure was delirious. “That’s where the crying comes in,” he says with a laugh.

Look at All the People: After being told by friends, acquaintances and even his grandmother that he resembled Charlie Chaplin, McClure snagged the title role in Chaplin, a new musical based on the life of the beloved film star. Three weeks before Chaplin began performances on Broadway, director Warren Carlyle challenged McClure to take up tightrope walking, playing the violin and roller-skating—all skills Chaplin himself had mastered. “Warren’s very flattering confidence in me allows me to think that I can do things that seem crazy,” McClure says. Although the newly minted star has some gigantic shoes to fill, he admits he feels a “strange kinship” to Chaplin, who became an international celebrity almost overnight. “I’m not Charlie Chaplin and will never, ever claim to be,” McClure says. “But when I become the Tramp, I can feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I’ve had sobbing people at the stage door tell me how much the evening changed their lives. The idea that this musical can channel Chaplin’s spirit for someone and move them is truly profound.”

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