A week after excitedly announcing Chaplin: The Musical as its spring show, the University of Canterbury Musical Theatre Society (MUSOC) cancelled the planned performance after concerns were raised about his scandalous past.
Announcing The Addams Family Musical will replace Chaplin, the society said on Facebook some members had raised concerns about the selected show.
“Members of the club have raised concerns about the selected 2021 spring show Chaplin: The Musical, with regards to the predatory and inappropriate conduct of Charlie Chaplin during his life and career,” it said.
“Despite being documented by credible sources, this was something that we as an exec were unaware of when selecting this show. After a meeting and discussion with the production team, we have made the decision to change our 2021 Spring show from Chaplin: The Musical to The Addams Family Musical.”
The decision had not gone well with some.
One student felt this was a case where “cancel culture has gone too far”.
“The cancel culture at the University of Canterbury is now so extreme that we can’t put on a play about Chaplin,” he said.
“A few fragile, but loud, students complained that Charlie Chaplin was a womaniser so they ‘wouldn’t feel safe’ in a play about him.
“Seriously. Cancel culture has gone too far.”
Charlie Chaplin was an English comic actor and filmmaker who rose to fame during the era of silent film, and his career spanned more than 75 years.
Born in 1889, his childhood was one of poverty and hardship and began performing at an early age, touring musical halls before later working as a stage actor and comedian.
But in the 1940s, controversy surrounded Chaplin and his popularity declined rapidly after the press and public found his involvement in a paternity suit and marriages to much younger women scandalous.
“We believe it is paramount that as a club we take the concerns of our members seriously, and we would never want anyone to feel uncomfortable or that their complaints are ignored,” the society said.
“We thank those who reached out to us with this information, and extend our apologies for this sudden and unexpected change.”
The society has been contacted for further comments.
According to its initial announcement, the play was to have been based on the real life story of Chaplin, from his first performance as a child in 19th-century London to his tearful acceptance of an honorary Academy Award in 1972.
The play would have explored how Chaplin’s childhood and inner insecurities shaped him and also created his biggest problems.
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