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Ryan Takes Us Through The Tanz Album - One Of Jim's Greatest Works

Posted by:
steven_stuart 07:22 pm UTC 05/07/21

This review originally appeared on the Ryan's Reviews site. It is Ryan's (rockfenris2005) review of the 1998 Tanz Cast Recording. Please enjoy.

In October 1986, "The Phantom of the Opera" opened at Her Majesty's Theatre in London and as of early 2020, nearly 35 years later, the same production was still running in both the West End and Broadway. The success of this musical was sort of like catching lightning in a bottle. First there was the score, with songs like "The Music of the Night", "All I Ask of You" and "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" and "Phantom", all of which were released as singles (the last one directed by Ken Russell who did the video for Pandora's Box "It's All Coming Back to me Now"). There was also the way that it was performed by Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman and Steve Barton (remember that name). It had been directed by musical theatre legend Harold Prince, the Prince of Broadway. The sets and costumes designed by Maria Bjornson were a masterpiece of design. At the end of the first act, when the Phantom drops the chandelier on the audience of the Opera Populaire, a chandelier comes sliding down over the heads of the audience and crashes onto the stage, which you probably already knew! There is very little I can fault about this production, which you've got to understand is difficult for a musical.

In December 1996, Jim Steinman and Andrew Lloyd Webber the composer of "Phantom" and some of the biggest musicals of the twentieth century were in Washington D.C. for the world premiere of their musical "Whistle down the Wind". At the time, Andrew had just opened the London, Los Angeles and New York productions of "Sunset Boulevard", while Jim had released "Bat out of Hell II" with Meat Loaf and was about to have another hit with Celine Dion on a remake of "It's All Coming Back to me Now". On "Whistle", Andrew and Jim were working with Harold Prince, the third and final time Hal would direct one of Andrew's musicals, and the anticipation for audiences everywhere was high. If "Whistle" worked, it would open on Broadway the following April at the Martin Beck Theatre (posters advertising this production still show up sometimes online.) Ultimately, despite the success at the box office, Andrew and Jim were left feeling dissatisfied. They would put together a new production in 1998, which spawned the Boyzone Number #1 "No Matter What" (when "Songs from Whistle down the Wind" is in the car, that is the most played song.)

In October 1997, Jim composed the score for another musical which opened at the Raimund Theater in Vienna, based on the 1967 film "The Fearless Vampire Killers" called "Tanz der Vampire: Das Musical". Both the film and musical were directed by Roman Polanski, who also co-wrote the screenplay. The book and lyrics for the musical were written by Michael Kunze, who had translated musicals like "A Chorus Line", "Evita" and "Phantom" for their original German productions. He had recently written his own musical "Elisabeth" with score by longtime collaborator Sylvester Levay. The choreography was handled by Dennis Callahan, meanwhile sets and costumes were spectacularly brought to life by William Dudley and Sue Blane, who once upon a time had designed costumes for a little musical called "The Rocky Horror Show". Meanwhile a very talented man named Hugh Vanstone handled the lighting, with Michael Reed supervising the score and Steve Margoshes providing orchestrations. Steve Barton was cast in the leading role of Count Von Krolock opposite Cornelia Zenz as Sarah, Gernot Kranner as the Professor Abronsius and Aris Sas, his young apprentice Alfred. To top everything off, Dewynters who had also designed the advertising for "Cats", "Les Misérables", "Phantom" and "Miss Saigon", created the logo image of a set of vampire fangs underneath the show's bloody title.

I say all of this, because in my humble view from everything I've been able to experience with these musicals, this is one of those times a productions catches lightning in a bottle. Look at all of these things from both musicals. If there's a weak link in either of them, it would probably be the book, but how many times have I even noticed this? Everything just works, and it not only works, it works beautifully, and so it becomes easier to see why both "Phantom" and "Tanz" have been running all of this time. Originally by the way, Jim was going to write lyrics for "Phantom", but he was too committed to the Bonnie Tyler album ("Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire"), however he then composes "Tanz". If it had been produced successfully in the English language, I think more people out there would agree with me on this. I'm not even sure how many audiences in London or New York, much less Australia, are aware of this musical, compared to something like "Wicked" or "The Lion King" and obviously "Phantom".

Since the release of the 1970 concept album of "Jesus Christ Superstar", which launched the careers of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, listeners have always had the ability to listen to the complete scores of Andrew's shows. What you hear on the "Superstar" album is more or less what is played in the theatre. It's the same with "Evita", "Cats", "Phantom", "Sunset Boulevard", and then Boublil and Schonberg with "Les Mis" and "Miss Saigon". This was not something that really happened in, say, the Golden Age of Musicals when Rodgers and Hammerstein were writing "The King and I". Musicals like "Evita" and "Les Mis" on the other hand are predominantly through sung, meaning there is little to no dialogue and everything can be recorded onto an album, so long as you can get it to fit. This is what happened with both the albums for "Phantom" and "Tanz", and this is what I first heard. I also experienced it from the point of view of a Steinman fan, having heard the "Bat" albums, suddenly putting this in and treating it as an album produced by Jim.

What I heard that first time, firstly in a highlights version and then a complete, only underlines what I've been saying, that "Tanz" like "Phantom" before it caught lightning in a bottle. The album itself not only compliments a truly extraordinary production that as of early 2020 was still being performed somewhere in the world, but it is one of the greatest cast recordings I've ever heard. It is a monster! And it's also, for this listener, the ultimate showdown as a Jim Steinman fan. It's like a movie, like "Star Wars" perhaps, where everything is building towards that last battle with Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker facing off against the Emperor, who's been pulling the strings ever since "The Phantom Menace". The sabres are flashing. Tempers are flying. Palpatine's laughing in the background and he's about to zap you with Sith lightning. This is it. Hold onto your hats. The next three hours are going to blow your mind. You've listened to "Bat", you've listened to "Bat II", "Bad for Good", "Dead Ringer", "Original Sin", and the Bonnie Tyler albums, the soundtracks, all of that, you've cringed at some of the accents from "Whistle down the Wind" while gushing in awe over Batman and Superman writing songs together, and now this. This is just fucking it!

The story takes place in late nineteenth century Transylvania, as vampire hunter Professor Abronsius and his assistant Alfred travel from Konigsberg to Transylvania in the search of vampires. The scene rises on a blizzard and Alfred is helplessly searching for the Professor, who is frozen solid in the snow. Alfred finds him and takes him to a village which seems to fear vampires. There, Alfred meets the Innkeeper's daughter Sarah who loves taking baths, and they begin to get romantic about one another, only Sarah is being serenaded and seduced by the mysterious Count Von Krolock who invites her to his ball. Abronsius is suspicious, and when Sarah runs away to the castle, they all find themselves drawn into the world of the vampires, where everybody's dreams and nightmares come true. In Krolock's Soliloquy in the second act, he turns directly to the audience and warns them that in the next millennium the world will be filled with an insatiable greed. Meanwhile everything is set to the musical rollercoaster that is Jim's score.

Let's have a look at what I call the complete album, that is the full double cast recording containing the vast majority of the show. Note: so I don't embarrass myself with any poor German here, I'm going to list these titles in English.

Disc 1:

"Overture"---Bang! "The Storm" from Jim's album "Bad for Good" is transformed into a thunderous Overture which drags you into the world of this blizzard, howling in the middle of a wilderness in Transylvania. This Overture alone is bloodcurdling, in a great way.

"Hey Ho Professor"---Alfred searches for the Professor. Listen to the underscore and the sound effects that are happening here. When it gets to the bit where all the music swells, when Alfred finds the Professor, it's mental.

"Garlic"---firstly, I love the burps!!! Alfred and Professor arrive at the village Inn, which is filled with garlic hanging in all directions. We meet Chagal the Innkeeper, Rebecca his wife and Magda the maid who Chagal is having an affair with. Professor asks Chagal about the garlic, but he just tries to fob him off. This song is an earworm.

"Please, Gentlemen"---Chagal escorts Abronsius and Alfred to their rooms, when they start hearing voices, singing voices, which turns out to be Chagal's daughter Sarah in the middle of taking a bath. Alfred is smitten with her and as it turns out, the feeling is pretty much mutual, but Chagal isn't happy.

"A Pretty Daughter is a Blessing"---Chagal comes back with a hammer and nails and boards up the door to Sarah's room, while singing about it. While he's hammering at the door, it's all happening in time with the music. The mix of humour and drama in this score is just fantastic.

"Never Ever Seen"---everyone goes to bed, but Alfred and Sarah are still wide awake, "dreaming" about one another, meanwhile Chagal's trying to continue his affair with Magda, Rebecca wakes up irate, and Professor thinks he sees someone on the stairs, but outside the Inn the Vampires are gathering, singing the music for, wait for it, "Turn around..." It gives me the chills.

"God is Dead"---Alfred and Sarah are still awake, when Count Von Krolock appears outside the inn and begins serenading Sarah with his song. It's the music for all of the choruses from "Original Sin", when then morph into the chorus of "Total Eclipse of the Heart", only it breaks off toward the end. The music, orchestrations and Steve Barton's performance are phenomenal.

"Everything's Fine"---it's the next day at the Inn, and Chagal, Magda and Rebecca are doing their chores outside when suddenly the local hunchback, Koukol, appears asking for candles. Listen to the underscoring here. It goes from happy and chirpy to nervous and suspenseful. Again, I just love it.

"Truth"---Professor appears, asking about Koukol, but Chagal just tries to fob him off again. Professor launches into his patter song, which is like something out of a Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera. Perfect for the Professor, meanwhile Jim goes "Pirates of Penzance", wow.

"You're Really Very Nice"---Alfred is about to take a bath, but Sarah shows up. She wants to use the bathroom and gives him her special sponge. The music underneath here, turning into snatches of song, is a neat tune. Of course, it's all leading up to the next bit. That part where she starts humming is gorgeous.

"Invitation to the Ball"---Count Von Krolock appears in the skylight, gazing down on Sarah, and inviting her to his ball. Now he's standing in front of the tub singing to the music from "Original Sin". Only Alfred hears voices, Krolock vanishes and everything turns into a big shemozzle. The ending of this scene is the orchestra quoting "Total Eclipse", not the first time that music's going to give me the shivers here.

"Out There is Freedom"---Alfred is serenading Sarah outside her window, only she's outside looking for the package which Koukol has just delivered to her. They sing a song together, which is some of the most breathtaking, heartbreaking, haunting music I have ever heard from Jim. This song will become the basis for "Going all the Way is Just the Start" on 2016's "Braver Than We Are" and you can see why Meat and Jim would want to record this together. The chorus of this song is quite literally breathtaking.

"The Red Boots"---the original version of this sequence is a dance scene, which means we get treated to a five minute medley from this score, and it's just mental. Chagal and Alfred come out at the end, realizing Sarah is gone, and Chagal races off to look for her as the music turns into the second half of "The Storm".

"Mourning for Chagal"---Chagal's body has been recovered, Rebecca's world is shattered and this is actually the last time we see her in the play. I always wonder what happens to her. You assume she's still down there in the Inn while... more later. Her little moment at the end of this is devastating, quoting the music from Chagal's song earlier.

"Death is Such an Odd Thing"---now Magda the maid steps forward. She finds it odd that Chagal is now dead, only he isn't because he wakes up, having turned into a vampire. Magda wards him off with a crucifix, but it doesn't work because he isn't that kind of vampire. This song is just cool, an underrated theatre classic.

"Through the Wilderness to the Castle"---Alfred and Abronsius catch Chagal, after they find out he's a vampire, and they get him to lead them straight to the castle. The music starts quoting "Midnight Serenade" from Jim's 1977 workshop of "Neverland" and it's so thrilling.

"At the Castle"---they arrive at the castle, to be greeted by verses of "Turn around" and Count Von Krolock singing to music from "Neverland". The first time I heard this scene on the complete album, I felt like I was in my musical happy place, and not just because of the recycling. It's just precious. The "Come with me" music at the end is everything. And so, Krolock leads them into the castle, and the audience is left wondering what is going to happen next. It's time for an intermission, or in this case we have to change the CD.

Disc 2:

"Total Eclipse of the Heart"---Disc 2 begins with another bang, as the orchestra recites the music from "The Storm", and finally *that* song. In a way, the 1983 Bonnie Tyler song almost seems to sum up my idea of the 80s, where sky was the limit. Cynics wonder why this is here, and why Jim couldn't have come up with something new. I think it was destined for "Tanz". In the original song, Bonnie Tyler sings "Once upon a time there was light in my life/But now there's only love in the dark/There's nothing I can do/A total eclipse of the heart". To me, that could be a vampire singing. I also noticed the acronym for this song which is TEOTH which could be TEETH, as in vampire fangs. This version is a knock out. It equals Bonnie and Rory's original for me.

"Carpe Noctem"---while Sarah is wandering the castle, singing with Krolock in the portrait gallery, Alfred is in the middle of a nightmare where Sarah is being turned into a vampire. This is a new song, but it features sections of older songs, music you'll recognize from "Come with me", "The future ain't what it used to be" and "Back into Hell". It does not surprise me that someone would want to record it for "Bat III". I just love this. It goes from metal to a choir singing at the end.

"A perfect day"---Alfred and the Professor wake, preparing to go down into the crypt to kill Von Krolock and his son, Herbert... The quote from "Out There is Freedom" on piano is practically worth the album alone for me.

"In the Crypt"---they make their way into the crypt, singing to the music from "Who Needs the Young?" from "Neverland" and "The Dream Engine", which eventually appears in both "Braver Than We Are" and the "Bat" musical. It has another section here. Listen to that piano. I just love it. It feels like an old silent movie. Meanwhile Alfred is too scared to kill the Count and Abronsius who's caught on the railings by his suspenders is furious. They have to leave, which is when we see Chagal and Magda as vampires singing together.

"Books, Books"---Alfred and Abronsius discover the library, and we hear this reprise of "Truth". This is a list song, and it's a very good one. I love when Sarah's humming comes in.

"For Sarah"---Alfred finds Sarah, in the middle of having her bath, but she doesn't want to be saved. Alfred is resolute, and that's when he sings his big song, which was once the music for "Milady", a song Barry Manilow recorded but never released in the 80s, from Ray Errol Fox and Jim's musical "The Confidence Man". This song is a wonder in all its manifestations, including Jim's film score for "A Small Circle of Friends". By the way, the chorus music from "Out There is Freedom" is also from "Confidence Man".

"More Books"---the Professor is still in that library! Alfred ends up finding a book called "When Love is Inside You" which is how he meets the Count's sequel.

"When Love is Inside You"---this is such a fun song! Alfred learns that Herbert the son is gay and has a thing for him, and Herbert tries to bite him, but Alfred escapes with the help of the Professor. The reprise is mental!

"You're Mistaken, Professor"---Abronsius confronts the Count on the battlements of the Castle. This whole sequence is riveting. I love all the quotes from "The Storm"/Overture music. Imagine hearing a calm quiet version of "The Storm". Well, it's on this track!

"Eternity"---the "Bat out of Hell" tour in the 70s would begin with a drummer bashing out a rock version of the Bolero, while Jim starts removing his gloves and pounding the piano onstage, before they all launch into "Great Boleros of Fire", and Meat comes out to sing "Bat". In "Tanz", this is now an introduction for the vampires with full orchestra behind them. Terrific!!!

"The Insatiable Greed"---Alfred and the Professor watch from behind one of the graves as Krolock delivers his haunting soliloquy, talking about his victims from the past. The music here is "Objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are" from "Bat II", one of the great highpoints of that album. This stands in its own right as one of the most powerful performances in Jim's career. I'd love to know what Meat Loaf thought of it.

"The Ball"---the ball has officially begun, and as the Vampires gather together and Abronsius and Alfred watch in their disguises, the scene completely goes off. The "Original Sin" music gives way to the chorus of "Total Eclipse", a truly awesome moment for this Steinfan, as Krolock bites Sarah. The Minuet based on "Turn around bright eyes" and what happens next, by the way? OMFG!!!!

"Out There is Freedom (Reprise)"---Alfred and the good Professor manage to escape all right, but then Sarah bites Alfred and turns him into a vampire. The reprise of the chorus only underlines what a killer piece of music this is, and so well matched to the drama.

"The Dance of the Vampires"---Abronsius is oblivious to everything and the Vampires take over the world. The music here is none other than the song I’ve been raving about for like how many reviews now? Yeah, "Tonight is What it Means to be Young" from "Streets of Fire" has been made over into the song of triumph for the vampires, their global dance as they take over the world, which this production also might have done.

And so we come to an end. It's over now, the vampire music of the night.

In the 2004 edition of "Musicals: The Complete Illustrated Story of the World's Most Popular Entertainment", this is what the author Kurt Gänzl had to say: "Tanz der Vampire's tale, its fun, its music and its spectacle all came together in what was undoubtedly the most complete and effective musical to have come out of central Europe." I can't say I'm surprised? Lightning in a bottle!

Thank you,


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