|Found this writeup on 'Dance of the Vampires'|
||rockfenris2005 02:11 am MST 02/09/17|
|Some quotes/info here that I'd never seen before.|
DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES
In the fall of 1997, Roman Polanski’s 1967 film, The Fearless Vampire Killers or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, was adapted into a stage musical, Tanz der Vampire, which premiered at the twelve-hundred seat Raimund Theater in Vienna, Austria. Polanski directed the musical, which was produced by Andrew Braunsberg and featured music by Jim Steinman (who had composed hit songs for Meat Loaf) with book and lyrics by Michael Kunze. “It’s a big, Wagnerian musical with lots of humor,” Steinman told George Hamilton of the London Financial Times. “A lot of it is pure Mel Brooks, and a lot of it is Anne Rice.” The score featured a song written by Steinman that had previously been a hit for Bonnie Tyler, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” “I couldn’t resist using it,” said Steinman. “I actually wrote it for another vampire musical that was based on Nosferatu, but never got produced.” The musical ran until mid-January.
After the show went on to become a hit in the German cities of Stuttgart, Hamburg, and Berlin, New York producers Elizabeth Williams and Anita Waxman made plans to bring it to Broadway. Steinman was involved in transferring it, co-writing the book with playwright David Ives, and co-directing with John Caird; Polanski was prohibited from directing the play, since he had fled the U.S. in 1979 after being charged with statutory rape and would be arrested upon his return. A staged reading was held in New York in May of 2001. “The German production is a fairly humorless show, with people getting hit on the head with salami,” Ives told Patrick Pacheco of Newsday. “And I’ve been brought in to take out the salami and put in the chorus girls. We were very pleased with the reading, and now it’s just a question of getting a theater, which, needless to say, isn’t easy.”
By July of 2001, Steinman was clashing with producers Williams and Waxman over the artistic direction of the show, so he turned over producing responsibilities to his manager, David Sonenberg. The show was originally scheduled to go into rehearsals in December and open in April at the Minskoff Theater. It would end up taking considerably longer to reach the stage.
After approaching David Bowie, John Travolta, Richard Gere, and Placido Domingo to star, the production got a boost when it was announced that Michael Crawford, Tony Award-winning star of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, had signed on to play Count Von Krolock.
In February of 2002, John Rando took over as director of Dance of the Vampires. “This show isn’t camp,” Rando said in an interview with Robert Feldberg of the Bergen County, New Jersey, Record. “It takes the vampire myth and pokes fun at it, but it also embraces it. Its message is about the excesses of appetite. It has wit and an edge to it.”
Comparing the Broadway version to the one that premiered in Vienna, Rando told Feldberg, “The main character in our production will be vastly different, a much more multifaceted, dynamic, complete figure. We’ve also made other changes and cuts and restructured the show into a book musical, with dialogue; the original is [all sung]. I think we’ve made it a much more interesting story. The German production is probably more faithful to the film.”
The $14 million show got off to a rocky start. During a tech rehearsal in early October 2002, Michael Crawford’s dresser fell through a trap door on stage and was rushed to the hospital with minor injuries. One of the highlights of the show was a six-ton graveyard, a piece of scenery designed to descend fifty feet from the theater’s fly space, tilting upward so that the audience could see the coffin lids being removed and the vampires emerging for a big song-and dance number. There was also a coffin that popped up out of the ground to emit Count Von Krolock, a red-eyed bat that flew over the audience, and lots of flying vampires. Technical difficulties in getting all of those computer-controlled elements to work smoothly caused cancellation of the show’s first two preview performances, which were originally scheduled for October 2002. Despite the setbacks, with Crawford’s name above the title, the advance sales were nearly $10 million.
By Halloween, after its first full week of previews, Dance of the Vampires took in $730,000. The musical was set to open November 21. However, it was postponed for eighteen days when director John Rando went to Texas to be with his mother, who was recovering from open-heart surgery.
When the show finally opened, the critic for the London Daily Mail enthused, “Instead of Lloyd Webber’s pungent operatics, we have knockabout camp nuttiness like a longhaired loon, grinning at the fun and singing gloriously, like a fallen angel, in a swirl of dry ice and a panoply of candles, just as he did in Phantom… Crawford has been the biggest British musical theater star of the past 30 years, from Billy to Barnum to Phantom. He still is. He flies like a bat out of hell.”
Other critics were far less generous. Malcolm Johnson, of the Hartford (CT) Courant, wrote, “A fine line divides satire and plagiarism, and Dance of the Vampires crosses it all too often…the elaborate horror spoof…frequently raises the specter of its superior neighbor, the long-running The Phantom of the Opera.”
In the New York Daily News, Howard Kissel wrote, “Few musicals in recent years have created the expectations of Dance of the Vampires. No one, mind you, expected anything good…What’s hard to understand is why Michael Crawford, its star, would want to appear in a show that spends so much energy sending up the work he did in Phantom of the Opera.”
Ben Brantley in the New York Times said, “Theater disaster cultists, a breed that makes Vlad the Impaler look small-time, have had their fangs at the ready ever since the early buzz began on Vampires…Vampires exudes the less exalted, simply embarrassed feeling of a costume party that everyone got all dressed up for and then decided wasn’t such a good idea…The overall effect is of a desperately protracted skit from a summer replacement variety show of the late 1960’s, the kind on which second-tier celebrities showed up to make fun of themselves.”
When the show closed, there was plenty of blame to go around. Some pointed the finger at producer David Sonenberg, who bought an opera but decided to make it something else, reportedly insisting that there be five jokes on every page of the script.
Others looked at Michael Crawford, who—in his zeal to not be compared with his role in Phantom of the Opera—insisted on writing his own jokes as Count Krolock, and didn’t want his co-star, Rene Auberjonois, to upstage him, so he cut Auberjonois’s laugh lines; they ended up stepping on each other’s punch lines in performances. Then there was the choreographer who wasn’t accustomed to dealing with such big troupes, and the composer who became so disgusted with the process that he stopped coming to rehearsals and skipped opening night. After its premiere, the show had daily ticket sales of between forty thousand and sixty thousand dollars; to support the weekly operating overhead of six hundred thousand dollars, it needed daily sales of one hundred thousand. By January, the $6 million of advance sales had evaporated. Giving in to the popular perception of the show, and desperate to sell tickets, the producers resorted to running ads that called Dance of the Vampires “the one new Broadway musical that really sucks.” But it was too late. The show closed on January 25, 2003, after only fifty-six performances. The investors lost everything.
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