PEI

Playwright 'thrilled' to see Kronborg — The Hamlet Rock Musical back at Charlottetown Festival

It's a show that started with a casual remark to a CBC Radio producer in 1973, but which playwright Cliff Jones found has come to frame his whole life.

The show was called Kronborg: 1582 when it originally took the stage at the festival

Claud Tessier and Brent Carver in the Charlottetown Festival's 1975 production of Kronborg: 1582. (Submitted by Confederation Centre for the Arts)

It's a show that started with a casual remark to a CBC radio producer in 1973, but which playwright Cliff Jones found has come to frame his whole life.

Kronborg: 1582, a musical based on Shakespeare's Hamlet, is returning to the stage where it first appeared, at the Charlottetown Festival in 1974.

This time, the production is going under a new name, Kronborg — The Hamlet Rock Musical.

"It's thrilling," said Jones.

"That's where it was born on stage and to be working with such great talent is, well, I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it."

The musical first appeared on the radio in December 1973 as Hamlet: The Musical, commissioned by the CBC after what Jones describes as "an off-the-cuff remark to a CBC radio producer."

Cliff Jones is excited by what has come out of the collaborative production process at the Charlottetown Festival. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

That summer it became a full stage production at Confederation Centre, titled Kronborg: 1582.

"I never really thought that it would become more than anything else that I was doing in those days in either television or radio and here it is, it's been framing my life for the last 45 years," said Jones.

It ran for two years at the Charlottetown Festival, and then moved to Broadway, retitled Rockabye Hamlet, in 1976. But its New York debut was a disappointment. The run lasted just seven days.

That kind of input is really thrilling. In the past, in New York and Los Angeles I basically handed my musical over to other people.— Cliff Jones

But the musical wouldn't go away. A Los Angeles production under yet another title, Somethin' Rockin' in Denmark, relaunched in 1981 and ran for 18 months.

Even when it wasn't on the stage, even when Jones left the entertainment industry to teach, the musical didn't seem to want to die.

"My Hamlet musical has always been beside me," said Jones.

"Colleagues of mine would find out that I had written Kronborg and wanted me to discuss it with their classes."

The road back to the Charlottetown Festival

Kronborg, with an abbreviated version of its original stage title, returned to P.E.I. in 2017 in concert form at the Indian River Festival.

Following the success at St. Mary's Church, there was another concert at Confederation Centre.

The return of a full production was announced last month. Jones said the most exciting part is working collaboratively with the producers.

"Here in Charlottetown it became true teamwork," he said.

"That kind of input is really thrilling. In the past, in New York and Los Angeles I basically handed my musical over to other people."

Kronborg — The Hamlet Musical will join Mamma Mia! and Anne of Green Gables: The Musical in the Homburg Theatre next summer.

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