Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rockabye Hamlet

A little glimpse into my evening at home: Wife and I realize that “Don’t Forget The Lyrics”, a show we used to watch, is back for the summer with celebrity editions.  This time it’s Meatloaf and his daughter.  Cool.  My wife during the course of the show will ask, “Is he married to her mom?” which causes me to hit up Wikipedia and find the answer.

Lo and behold what else do I find?  That Meatloaf, he of “Paradise By The Dashboard Light”, was actually in a Hamlet Musical called “Rockabye Hamlet.”  I knew he was well trained, and did some time in As You Like It.  But a Hamlet musical?

Sure enough, the link above speaks to a recent revival of the 1976 flop.  But read the comments, people who saw it say the loved it:

The original was a trip is all I can say. It was ******* amazing
A than unknown Meatloaf, Beverly D Angelo & others performed the hell out of it.

I am trying desperately to find an audio recording.

Then again:

Rockabye Hamlet (1976 - 7) was the most embarrassing nail in the rock musical's coffin. It was based on Shakespeare's classic drama about a fictional Danish prince avenging his royal father's death. Director Gower Champion staged the show like an all-out rock concert, and the result was such an incoherent mess that many found it hard to believe that Champion could have been responsible for it.

List of songs:

He Got It In The Ear???




Willshill said...

I never saw the show, but I also heard from those who say they liked it a lot. Of course, it could have been a "cult thing"; most of the time never enough for a major enterprise to hang in long enough without at least a lukewarm response from a critic or two. Who ever thought the Rocky Horror Show could become what it did? Or it might have been more than that, given the chance to be seen. "Critics" and "Brokers". What a team. Together, they have more power than they deserve. I've seen shows on Broadway that got standing ovations and deserved to run; personally known the actors in them who took a pay cut to keep it running a little longer in hopes that the "official opinions" might be deservedly overruled--all to no avail. The Almighty Real Estate Dollar rules Art on The Great White Way.

Duane said...

Know what I did also learn during that little jaunt down rock musical memory lane? Galt McDermott, one of the guys that did the Shakespeare-quote-laden HAIR, also had some bit of success with a rock musical version of Two Gentlemen of Verona.
I think I'd like to see that.

Willshill said...

It's a small world. You mention McDermott-- Larry T. Marshall played the lead in "Rockabye Hamlet". Probably best known (recognized) as Simon the Zealot in the film version of JC Superstar. He did a ton of work with McDermott. He was one of the ones I was referring to when I mentioned pay cuts. He was in the short lived "Inner City"-'72--97 performances (approx. 12 weeks). I saw the show ? I can't count the number of times, probably most of the 97, watching from both the house and the wings on various occasions. A great performer---incredible energy and charisma-nominated in '77 for a Tony (Porgy and Bess). Guess it didn't help in Rockabye.

M.M.E. said...

Hahah. That's awesome! Never knew there was a musical. As an English major, Shakespeare's one of my favorites. I like him so much I even made my own journal featuring Hamlet and Ophelia. You can find it at my website P.S. Hamlet is a jerk.

Willshill said...

M. M. E. wrote" "P.S. Hamlet is a jerk."

You didn't think you could make that statement without inciting "something"--did you? :)

Prove It.

Duane said...

is it that hard Will? He destroys ophelia, knowing full well what he's doing, all because it fits his plan. His plan, by the way, which is really just the height of procrastination because he's too chicken to avenge his dad.

Willshill said...

Don't you think that's an overly simplistic character analysis merely given all of the other rather complex (that's being kind to them) "personalities" in play around him?-- Never mind the complexities situationally; never mind his betrayal by everyone around him (save one-and he has no clout) important or pertinent to his life, (that includes Ophelia, in her own way, and in a much bigger way for all he KNOWS FOR SURE) situation, standing, and rightful inheritance ...oh, and did I mention his Dad just "died"--and he's talked to his Ghost?!!!

I can go on, but that's plenty to consider at first. And we must consider all of that and more if we're to make any serious attempt (and I truly mean ATTEMPT) at understanding what makes up the Prince of Thought. He can't be approached from a modern viewpoint, categorized in those terms, and still be allowed to emerge with the Nobility he owns--IN SPADES. He's Shakespeare's greatest and truest, most complex yet most honest human creation. "How Infinite in faculty". Ironically, that--taken to its highest possible level by Shakespeare, and combined with the dishonesty and deception of all around him-- is his downfall... -and theirs.
It's really a shame that he's been over-"Freudianised" for so long that it's popular (and, sadly, possible) to think of him in such decidedly one-dimensional, soap opera-like terms. Though it's a 'domestic' situation, these are real human beings--not plastic, merchandised ones.

P.S.--If Hamlet's a jerk, then so is Shakespeare. It follows logically for me.

Duane said...

Oh I wouldn't say that I'm summing up Shakespeare's entire life that way, like he's some misogynistic college frat boy football player lovin' and leavin' em at successive weekend frat parties.

When the original poster says "jerk" it brings to mind the very specific scene (I'm lousy at citing act and scene) where Ophelia has been put out as bait, and the encounter is watched by Polonius and Claudius. Almost every interpretation I've seen shows a Hamlet who sees immediately what's going on, and puts on a show for his secret audience. Is it 100% show? Of course not, there's some real emotion there. The man's seriously conflicted about some things. But is it Ophelia's fault that he's got issues with mom? Does she really deserve to be destroyed like he does to her?

Either he crushes her on purpose, acting out his displeasure with Claudius on an innocent victim, or else he does so for his own benefit because he's upset with women in general. Either way, other than allowing herself to be manipulated by the strong male characters in her life, what exactly did Ophelia do to merit the treatment she gets?

Willshill said...

That's the trouble with possible "interpretations" we've been given for so long--and the pity that there are some which haven't been explored.
Hamlet's earlier behavior; the scene Ophelia describes to Polonius recounting Hamlet's wierd behavior--/"Lord Hamlet with his doublet all unbrac'd/.../Ungartered and downe gived to his ankle..." etc, etc., following Polonius' admonishment forbidding her to have any more to do with him. How much time has passed is up for discussion, but we do know that enough has gone by for Polonius to have summoned Reynaldo to give him spying instructions to use with Laertes (an incredibly important scene-- almost always cut for "time" -- during which we are allowed to see the true character of Polonius ; it's not a befuddled sweet old man Hamlet kills in the bedroom scene, but is exactly, by the by, what Hamlet describes afterward: ("Thou wretched, rash, intruding foole farewell,) Hamlet always takes more heat for his actions than he deserves on this count as well.
Anyway, Reynaldo leaves, Ophelia rushes in to tell her story. Her description of Hamlet's appearance, clothing and otherwise, is an almost item for item list of how the jilted Lover would display, representatively, the fact that he has indeed been jilted--the great affect of an unrequited Love. (used forever as ammunition for "dissing" Hamlet for his infantilism and to support the idea that he really is "crazy") She, of course, can give no response to Hamlet's behavior, having the weighty power of paternal filial obligation on her head. Hamlet, however, KNOWS NOTHING about that important fact; a fact which later becomes a tragic engine of misunderstanding on both of their parts.
Polonius' relates to the King & Queen his very accurate assessment of Hamlet's behavior: Yes, Hamlet's "mad"--mad for Love. Not unusual! as he goes on to explain to them how he instructed Ophelia to repulse the Lord Hamlet, etc.!
A plan to Spy on Hamlet is formulated--first Polonius alone THEN with Ophelia as Bait.
Meanwhile, Hamlet, in his perceptive brilliance, ferrets out more attempts at spying on him in his "good friends" Ros. & Guild".
Next--Ophelia Bait.

Willshill said...

Ophelia Bait
He sees her--asks her to include forgiveness of his "sins" (is this an admission that he may done something resulting in her REPULSION OF HIM?) in her "praying" (which she isn't doing). She responds with extreme coldness and formality-she also uses the "you" form of the pronoun-- "How does your Honor [your "Honor"???!!!] for this many a Day?" --like saying, nice day we're having, isn't it? (yawn) -- though she does indicate how long it's been since they've seen one another, she MUST play her Role. He responds in kind, surprised--this registers with the most strength in the second part of his line in "...well, well, well"--he has 5 beats to deliver 3 syllables; the repetition is also significant and must be played. . She immediately snubs him, and this time, it's 'in your face' no matter how 'sweetly' it's done-- Take back everything you ever gave me! Hamlet should respond "No, no, I never gave THEE ought" Instead he continues to use the "you" form. She should notice this--and she does--but she can't let on.
She offers to return his Remembrances: "There my Lord"--7 beats left for 'Something' to happen--(she lets on something here--one of Hamlet's greatest skills is his ability to Observe)--add her 'extra beats' to Hamlet's response: Ha, ha: are you honest? All totaled there are 11 'extra beats in those 2 lines (most of the time the lines are combined, eliminating 'empty time' to make a shared line.) Hamlet is also given a colon (indicative of an action) in his partial line.
Later Hamlet says, "I did love you once." Again the "you" and he has 10 beats to speak 5 syllables. Put a comma between 'you' and 'once' as just one choice, and see what can happen. But by this time he's 'found out' that not only has she snubbed him; she is now also someone who has betrayed him. Now the tragic misunderstanding--borne out of the necessities dictated by fear and deception--pour jet fuel on the fire-- seeds of deception blossom into the flowers of anger and wrath. How would you respond given what he thinks he knows? He is THE Thinker--what does he think? is what's important; not what WE are “supposed to know” about what's really going on. And at whose hands does Ophelia receive the very worst treatment?-Those of her father and her king--they use her--without any legitimate provocation (which Hamlet certainly has)-- like a piece of throw away garbage.
As far as the two lovers go, It really is nobody's "fault"--as Hamlet says: "The time is out of joint"--never more so than here, in their own mis-timing as they attempt to communicate with one another.Mis-givings; -mis-information; mis-timing mis-takes; all MISS.
I've tried to list some of the more salient points. There's a lot more to this--esp. in the verse structure Shakespeare gave to his actors (it's all been changed and moved around)-- trying to write it all out, well, that's another story.

blue1923 said...

The show had its origins in little old Prince Edward Island in Canada. It was then known as Kronborg 1582 before they took it to New York, renamed it Rockabye Hamlet and ruined it.

I saw it about 10 times in the two years it was here and have never seen a musical that was better.

I have a frail bootleg cassette of most of the concert and it one of my most prized - and rarest - possession.