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Melodrama Hits Right Note With Its Version of 'Hamlet' : Moorpark troupe's musical version sticks fairly close to Shakespeare's--but does take some amusing liberties.


Something may be rotten in the state of Denmark, but everything's OK in Moorpark, where the Magnificent Moorpark Melodrama & Vaudeville Co. is presenting its production of something called "Hamlet . . . the Musical?"

You don't need to be a Shakespeare scholar to appreciate this "Hamlet," although those familiar with the play--maybe through Mel Gibson's recent film version--might appreciate some of the (if this is the word) nuances.

Nuances are few, though, in a play that turns two of Shakespeare's minor male characters into a pair of coquettish mall rats named Rosie Krantz and Gilda Stern ("This is a happenin' castle ya got heah"), and Horatio into a heavy-metal head who makes his entrance playing air guitar and singing the main riff to Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water."

Monk Ferris' script sticks fairly close to Shakespeare's, touching most of the high plot points and well-known soliloquies, and even increasing the number of deaths in the last scene. The Melodrama production's director and choreographer, Joy Enright, has added a couple of contemporary references ("Saturday Night Live" jokes, mainly) and the show opens with the chorus singing Cole Porter's "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."

While much of the acting here won't worry the nearby California Shakespeare Company, most is adequate to the production and some is surprisingly good--Will Shupe II, who plays Hamlet, has evidently never before acted Shakespeare but could, and Jonathan Graff, who plays the evil Claudius, has a fairly extensive background in The Real Thing.

Other particularly notable performances are Kristin Prewitt and Erin Appling as Rosie and Gilda, Elaine Raleigh as Gertrude's mother, Abigail Jones as Ophelia, and Mark Tortorici and James Harlow in various roles.

The songs are serviceable, if not exactly memorable, and the cast handles Enright's choreography with enthusiasm. Cheryl Talbot is musical director and pianist.

So, if the lack of singing and dancing has kept you away from Shakespeare's "Hamlet," the Moorpark Melodrama's may be the alternative you've been looking for.


* WHAT: "Hamlet . . . the Musical?"

* WHEN: Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m., through Feb. 12.

* WHERE: Magnificent Moorpark Melodrama & Vaudeville Company Theater, 45 E. High St., Moorpark.

* COST: Thursday, all seats $6; Friday and Saturday evenings, all seats $12; Saturday and Sunday matinees, $12 adults, $9.50 seniors and children. Group rates available for matinees only. Visa and MasterCard accepted.

* FYI: For reservations or information, call 529-1212.

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