Hamlet! | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Hamlet! 

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Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight: that's the spirit behind this hilarious reworking of Shakespeare's most famous play. Written in a perky 60s style that recalls Richard and Robert Sherman's Disney film scores, Jeff Richmond and Michael Thomas's musical doesn't coast on kitschy smugness or gross-out grotesqueness like so many spoofs; instead it offers a series of clever, surprising variations on the original story, building to the upbeat ending implied by the title's exclamation point and proving that there is nothing like a Dane. Richmond himself plays the melancholy prince as a kooky cross between Anthony Hopkins and Dudley Moore, a perfect match for Tina Gluschenko's wacked-out, irrepressible Ophelia; Thomas as King Claudius is an overripe comic villain well suited to Alexandra Billings's Queen Gertrude--part Joan Collins, part Carol Burnett--a thoroughly modern mom who spanks her son with a purple boa. It's all grandly silly, but it works because the company, under Richmond's direction, approaches the material without lazy condescension. The witty result should entertain Shakespeare admirers and musical-comedy aficionados as well as the late-night party-show crowd. ImprovOlympic Theater, 1218 W. Belmont, 880-0199. Open run: Saturdays, 11 PM. $9.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Brian Dann.

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