First-Time Tony Nominee: Rob McClure shuffles his way to a Tony nomination for his powerful performance in ‘Chaplin’

Rob McClure in "Chaplin."

Rob McClure in “Chaplin.”

One of the biggest underdogs this awards season is Rob McClure who is nominated for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his performance as Charlie Chaplin in the short-lived musical Chaplin.

While the show may not have been well-received, critics couldn’t stop talking about McClure’s performance as the iconic Little Tramp. “Welcome to the show that’s going to make you a Broadway star!” Linda Winer from Newsday raved and even Ben Brantley of The New York Times couldn’t keep from sending a little love his way in his less-than-stellar review in The New York Times.

What was particularly magical about McClure’s performance was that while he was onstage, there was no question he was Charlie Chaplin. Charlie’s transformation into the Tramp in act one not only defines the rest of show but also ultimately defines McClure’s phenomenal portrayal of the role. Having spent nearly three years playing Chaplin both on Broadway and out of town at La Jolla Playhouse, McClure perfected the Tramp’s “shuffle” and flawlessly matched all of the character’s mannerisms.

However, the role isn’t simply pie-throwing gags and mimicking classic Tramp skits. Chaplin goes a step beyond the jokes and delves into Chaplin’s personal life, especially his relationship with his mother and his supposed involvement in communism, and with McClure as Chaplin, the show was particularly moving. When he sang the show’s 11 o’clock number “Where Are All the People,” it was enough to move any audience to tears. As Hannah Chaplin says in the show, you have to “find a story and make it your own,” and McClure did exactly that. He didn’t try to recreate Charlie Chaplin on the stage; rather, he honored the film star through his original portrayal of Chaplin’s life story.

McClure got his start in acting at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse and considers himself to be a true “Paper Mill Playhouse kid.” He won their Rising Star award in high school for his role in Where’s Charley? which he reprised at New York City Center Encores! in 2011. Paper Mill also gave McClure his big Broadway break – while trying to earn his Equity card, he understudied the role of Gilley in I’m Not Rappaport. When the show moved to Broadway a few months later, McClure went with it and made his Broadway debut in 2002.

He went on to play numerous roles in Avenue Q on Broadway and later starred as Princeton and Rod on the first national tour. McClure will be returning to Paper Mill in the fall to premiere Jason Robert Brown’s new musical Honeymoon in Vegas alongside Tony Danza and Brynn O’Malley.

While many would love to see Rob McClure win the Tony for his wonderful performance in Chaplin, the chances of him winning are very low, as his nomination was the only one for the short-lived show. His performance might have been hilarious and incredibly moving, but it may not be enough for him to take home the award. However, with his incredible acting and singing skills, we’ll see him back at the Tony Awards very soon!

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