Jude Law and the Law — Well, Factoids — of the Hamlets


Photo by Johan Persson

With the announcement late last week of the full cast of the upcoming Jude Law Hamlet, it occurred to me that it might be worth considering the many Hamlets that have preceded Law on the Broadway stage. Just to give a sense of what a true mountain of shoes there are to fill.

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According to the Internet Broadway Database, there have been 66 productions of Hamlet on Broadway. “Productions” is also a relative term: #7 and #8 on the IBDB list represents substantially, if not exactly, the same revival of Hamlet starring E.H. Sothern, produced by the great showman Charles Frohman. In the pre-modern era — before World War I, say — these weren’t so much as productions, really, as showcases and altar-worship for the actor in question. The John Barrymore revival in the early 1920s began to change that, especially with Robert Edmond Jones designing settings.

Factoid #1: only the most recent portayal of Hamlet on Broadway, that of Ralph Fiennes, resulted in a Tony Award for the actor essaying the title character. In 1964, Richard Burton famously lost the Tony (in a landmark revival for which Hume Cronyn won a Tony for his Polonius) to Alec Guinness, for Dylan. (In Drama Deskland, Kevin Kline lost twice for Hamlet, in 1986 and 1991. Fiennes won a Drama Desk Award, two.)

Factoid #2: The 14 years and two months between the 1995 closing of the Ralph Fiennes Hamlet and the opening of the Jude Law Hamlet is long stretch for Broadway, but not a record. The time between the closing of 1975 revival starring Sam Waterston (early 1976) and the opening of Roundabout Theatre Company revival starring Stephen Lang in early 1992 was about 16 years, three months.

Another fun Hamlet discussion is the number of performances played. Fiennes’ revival only logged 91 performances; that’s not even close enough to merit discussion in terms of endurance: the 1964 revival starring Richard Burton was given 137 times, according to IBDB; a 1945-46 revival with Maurice Evans in the title role logged 131 performances.

In 1961, a revival starring Donald Madden registered 102 performances — a key number: the 1922-23 Barrymore revival played 101 while the John E. Kellerd production in 1912 played 102, which was when Edwin Booth’s legendary record was first broken. The Jude Law production is only 12 weeks long — probably not long enough to establish a new Broadway record.

Hamlet opens Oct. 6 at the Broadhurst. For more information, visit www.hamletbroadway.com or call 212-239-6200.