PEI

Hamlet rock musical back on stage at Indian River Festival

The writer and composer of a musical based on Shakespeare's Hamlet says he's getting emotional about preparing to see his show "back where it's always belonged," more than 40 years after it was first performed on stage on P.E.I.

Writer and composer will be in audience to watch show

Cliff Jones will be in the audience to watch his rock musical based on Shakespeare's Hamlet, Kronborg 1582, that he wrote in the early 1970s. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

The writer and composer of a musical based on Shakespeare's Hamlet says he's getting emotional about preparing to see his show "back where it's always belonged," more than 40 years after it was first performed on stage on P.E.I.

The Confederation Centre will perform the rock musical Kronborg 1582 at the Indian River Festival on July 28, 43 years after it was first performed at the Charlottetown Festival.

"It's quite an unbelievable spirit-lifting experience for me," said Cliff Jones Tuesday. 

Jones said the idea for the show came to him in 1973 after listening to Jesus Christ Superstar. 

The next day, on the spur of the moment he suggested to a CBC radio producer in Toronto that idea of a rock opera based on Hamlet.

Idea to contract

A day later while working on a script for the popular children's show Mr. Dressup, the same producer came in with a contract for him to write the musical. 

Jones said he wrote it quickly because as well as working on Mr. Dressup, he wrote the Tommy Hunter Show and was working on a television special for Anne Murray. 

"I dashed this little ditty off and we were in the studio recording it because it was broadcast in December of 1973." 

Jones said he got a call soon after that from Jack McAndrew, producer of the Charlottetown Festival, asking if they could put his musical on stage. He came to Charlottetown to help stage it in 1975. 

The show was then staged on Broadway and Los Angeles, where it ran for 18 months and won seven awards. 

It's been altered with every different production, but Jones says it's the production being staged on July 28 that he feels "closest" to, which is a replica of the original Kronborg.

"[It's back] where it began and where, in my mind, it's always belonged," he said. "Those two years that it was done at the Charlottetown Festival were just magic years for me."

With files from Island Morning

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