Viennese Invitation To A
"Dance Of The Vampires"
by Guido Tartarotti
Byline: Roman Polanski's world premiere at Vienna's Raimund Theater is a resounding
If Dance Of The Vampires were a rock show there would only be one word to describe it:
sensational. As a musical, there is still only one word to describe it: sensational.
Roman Polanski and composer Jim Steinman have written a contemporary musical with
results that are more like a rock concert than Kiss Me Kate.
It is the old story of a vampire's bite as defloration metaphor. The counts castle is
no less of a symbol than the Mount Of Venus in Tannhauser. But in this case the threat of
Wagnerian pathos is kept at bay by a sense of ironic acts that reduces the potential
damage. The musical is basically a parody.
"It's fun to be dead," sings the maid Magda shortly before she is bitten.
True to this motto, the innkeeper's daughter Sarah, who is torn between the Count's
eroticism an Alfred's infatuation with her, goes after the young man and seduces him.
Steinman has written some very sensitive melodies, particularly in the first part, and
his sons are eminently hummable. After the intermission he doesn't manage quite as well,
falling back on melodies from Act I and his old Bonnie Tyler hit - which only goes to
intensify the emotion even more.
Curiously, the musical genre appears to be following in the footsteps of the rock
scene, but with a ten year time lag. Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical monolith is based on
the sounds of the sixties and seventies. Dance Of The Vampires is solidly anchored in the
bombastic concrete and steel of the mid-eighties. And in ten years time musicals will
sound like Nirvana. In any event, Steinman's syncopated melodies are a welcome change from
the acoustic drivel of Webber's later works.
Librettist Michael Kunze wrings out some acceptable and in some cases frankly funny
dialogue from a language that does not normally lend itself to satirical songs. He
sometimes gives the singers too many syllables to sing and Steve Barton, in particular,
has a hard time of it.
Kunze's portrayal of the vampires as a pushy crowd singing "We have no morals, we
couldn't give a shit what becomes of the world" is reminiscent of his work for Udo
As braying chairman of the vampire consortium, Steve Barton knows that his stage
presence is imposing. And he is aware that the audience knows this as well. The singing
and acting of Aris Sas, the young reluctant hero, are the hit of the show. When he sings
with his fine voice and trembling knees to try and give himself courage, one practically
has to bite their sleeve to stop from laughing out loud.
Cornelia Zern is more charming than irritating in her portrayal of Sarah's eroticism.
Her variable and never showy voice gives plenty of sex appeal to the duets with Aris Sas.
With Barton she has her work cut out for her not to be drowned out by his powerful voice.
Gernot Kranner in the role of Professor Abronsius has a moody role to play. His
energetic body language goes down very well with the audience but seems to take so much
work that one's muscles almost ache just from watching him.
Eva-Maria Marold as the sexy maid Magda fills the auditorium with her high-caliber
voice and, together with innkeeper Chagal, played by James Sbano, has the funniest lines.
The dance scenes are typical of the production as a whole: loud and very sexy. The play
promises to be an international success.
I am sure there are plenty of good reasons why in artistic terms this production should
be a flop, but I can't think of any.