The Music of Hamlet 2

Hamlet 2 really takes off in the last act where we see the titular performance occur in the context of the film. There is some interesting stagecraft used (I'm a fan of their use of scaffolding and the lighting design), but the true star at this point is the music. You've heard "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" by now. It's the single that was used to sell the film. They were going for shock factor and commercial appeal. The song is catchy, but the shock factor didn't translate well to ticket sales. That's a shame because "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" is the weakest song in the film. It serves a good purpose and is used well, but it is hardly the musical highlight.

A much better song is the awfully titled but musically compelling "Raped in the Face." First, the title is a great callback to one of the first lines in the film. Hamlet 2's greatest strength is how much the first hour of the film informs and establishes the lyrics, dialog, casting, and staging of the play within the film.

But more importantly, this song is very well composed. It sounds like a legitimate musical theater song from the 80s post-Les Miserables rock theater explosion. The melody is memorable. The lyrics, sans "raped in the face," are solid as well. Then there is the unison of chromatic scale key changes at the end of the song that thoroughly eviscerates a very old American musical theater convention. It's worth listening to even outside the context of the film.

The true musical highlight of the film, however, is a choral cover of Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight." The combined set-up is great. In one earlier scene, we see the Gay Men's Chorus of Tucson warming up in the high school gym. In a later scene, we see a girl mention that Elton John's people are calling about clearance of his music for the show. In a film with songs called "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" and "Raped in the Face," you aren't expecting one of Elton John's more poignant songs to be used for great dramatic effect.

The film sets the Gay Men's Chorus of Tucson on scaffolding behind the audience. They sing "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" while all of the well-planned dramatic action occurs onstage. You see Ophelia dancing in front of the waves of the water she will drown in and Hamlet fighting with Laertes. This montage of legitimate stagecraft shows that, inappropriate subject matter aside, Hamlet 2 the play might actually be a good show. As absurd as the idea of Jesus and Hamlet going in a time machine to stop the tragic events of their lives from unfolding is, the concept might actually have merit as executed in the film. The gorgeous choral arrangement creates a haunting atmosphere that stands out in the best way possible from the rest of the slapstick and schtick that fills Hamlet 2 the film from start to finish.

You can listen to "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" at Rhapsody.

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