BRAINTREE NATIVE TAKES HIS ‘CHAPLIN’ TO BROADWAY
By Bella English
September 9, 2012
Several years ago, I was invited by a friend to his parents’ home in Weymouth, where his cousin was playing the piano and singing songs he had created about the life of Charlie Chaplin. The cousin also did the show to raise money for our church, First Parish in Milton.
The music was great, but I thought no more about it after I left. Just some talented young guy who grew up in Braintree and had a thing for Chaplin, the most famous star in Hollywood’s silent film era.
Christopher Curtis is the talented young guy’s name, and he has taken the legendary Charlie Chaplin all the way from Braintree to Broadway. “Chaplin the Musical” opens Monday at the Barrymore Theater, following previews that began Aug. 21. Curtis wrote the music and lyrics and co-wrote the book with Thomas Meehan (“Annie,” “The Producers,” “Hairspray”).
Being on Broadway is a dream Curtis has had since his theater days at Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree. He had taken up the piano the summer before he arrived there, and realized that he could play by ear. At “Archie,” he played piano for school shows.
“Sister Corona was the music teacher, and we did ‘Godspell,’ ‘My Fair Lady,’ and others,” says Curtis, who lives in New York but comes home to visit his family in Braintree: mother Noreen; sister Mary Beth; and brother Alan, who is a physician for the Celtics.
After high school, Curtis played for a year at the Common Market in Quincy, which is owned by his uncle, Jack McDonald. “We used to have singing waiters and I put on Broadway show revues.” He went to the University of California, San Diego, for a year, then transferred to UCLA to study film composing. He began playing in clubs and restaurants in California and left UCLA before graduating.
It was at a Beverly Hills restaurant that he met Chaplin’s son, Sydney. “He told me about his dad’s struggles,” says Curtis. “He thought if his dad wasn’t an orphan, he would never have created ‘The Little Tramp.’ I thought that was really interesting.”