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Stars align for collaboration at Stratford Shakespeare Festival

Are Stars and Shakespeare a match made in heaven – or, as Hamlet puts it, "the other place"?

We'll soon find out: The melancholy Canadian indie popsters are partners in a new musical project inspired by the melancholy Dane being developed by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, The Globe and Mail has learned.

Stars lead singer and songwriter Torquil Campbell is collaborating with novelist Ann-Marie MacDonald and director Alisa Palmer on what is being described as a "meditation on Hamlet." The as-of-yet-untitled show – less a musical than a metaphysical cabaret – will draw its tunes from Stars' back catalogue, and may also feature new ones wrought by Campbell.

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The work-in-progress had a secret workshop presentation on the weekend in Stratford, Ont., bringing together Festival actors with Campbell and multi-instrumentalist Julian Brown of Apostle of Hustle and Feist's band.

Canadian pop and Hamlet do not have a sterling history (see 1976's Broadway pop-opera flop Rockabye Hamlet), but Stratford and Stars do.

Forty-year-old Campbell, who performed there as a child, is part of a Southern Ontario theatrical dynasty – his father, the late Douglas Campbell, was in Stratford's first season in the tent and a frequent Falstaff thereafter; his half-brother is Shaw Festival star Benedict Campbell; his wife is Shaw sexpot Moya O'Connell.

Torquil Campbell has imported a Stratford-bred theatrical and literary sensibility – not to mention extremely clear enunciation – to his music career. Indeed, with songs about suicide (Do You Want To Die Together?) and delayed revenge (He Lied About Death), he arguably could be said to be the Hamlet of Canadian indie rock – with Stars co-front person Amy Millan as his Ophelia.

I, for one, can't wait to see the result of this collab, even (especially?) if it involves the ghost of Hamlet's father singing, I Died So I Could Haunt You.

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About the Author
Theatre critic

J. Kelly Nestruck is The Globe's theatre critic. More

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