The biggest news on Broadway last night, besides Jude Law’s stunning debut in “Hamlet,” is that Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman have been making short film together. Shhhh. It’s a secret. No one knows what it is or why they’re doing it. Maybe it will become clearer now. Just a weird note, because Winslet would be perfect in the film version of “A Steady Rain,” the play in which Jackman is now appearing with Daniel Craig on Broadway. I’m just sayin’…
Even Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes, Kate’s husband, didn’t seem to know much about it as he arrived for “Hamlet.” The opening was a little celeb-starved, surprisingly. Janet McTeer, Natalie Portman, hit songwriter Desmond Child, Victor Garber, and Barbara Walters were pretty much the extent of it.
A lot of A listers will be kicking themselves, too, when they see the reviews for Jude as the haunted Danish Prince. He’s terrific, and holds his own carrying this three-hour Donmar Warehouse production directed by Michael Grandage and written by, you know, William Shakespeare.
While this “Hamlet” comes with a strong British cast ‘ I particularly liked Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ophelia and Kevin R. McNally as Claudius. But it’s Jude who has the most to prove after appearing in countless mostly middling movies, trying hard to be a movie star and at the same time finding himself in constant tabloid hell. (If you don’t know it, a past, short-term lover just gave birth to his fourth child.)
Most tabloid celebs don’t have the goods, and when it comes down to it, are famous for being famous. Not Jude Law. He first came to prominence on Broadway in “Indiscretions” (1995) last on a bill featuring Kathleen Turner, Roger Rees and Cynthia Nixon. Fourteen years later, he returns to New York theater and makes a splash. This is no simple or easy project. This is a whole “Hamlet,” with very little trimmed. The second act is longer than the first, and Law seems to grow even livelier as the play continues. He has the goods. This “Hamlet” will do a lot to advance his career as a serious actor.
He isn’t as haunted as some other Hamlets I’ve seen in recent years, like Kevin Kline or Liev Schreiber. Law’s Hamlet is less overwhelmed by his father’s ghost than angry about his mother’s affair with his uncle two months after the father’s death. But “Hamlet” is a play of depths, with a lot of issues to explore. It’s all going to end the same way anyway. And you can’t help but feel for him at the play’s conclusion.
FYI the last time “Hamlet’ was on Broadway, he was played by Ralph Fiennes. It seems like yesterday, but it was the spring of 1995 ‘ the same time Jude Law was making his debut down the street.