Stage Light, Not Sunlight
By Eric Grundhauser, Broadway Magazine
While Young Frankenstein has been successfully song-and-dancing recent Broadway audiences, it’s not the first ghoulish production to haunt the Great Fright Way. There’s another classic monster that has tried time and again to hypnotize Broadway audiences, and with Halloween here lets take a look at some of the productions that focused on that fanged creature of the night, the vampire.
Dracula and his ilk may have been featured in a number of plays and musicals, but two major projects stand out: German import Dance of the Vampires, and the Ann Rice and Elton John mash-up, Lestat. Neither of the shows were smash hits, but they managed to bring the sensual theatricality of the vampire mythology to the stage.
Dance of the Vampires came to Broadway after successful stagings in various European countries. Originally based on a Roman Polanski film of the same name, the musical followed the misadventures of a vampire hunter and his assistant as they try to stop a vampire from consuming a comely lass. With a fairly serious tone in the foreign productions, the show was changed to give it a campier, silly feel when it came to American shores. Unfortunately, this retooling turned out to be a disaster and the play received criticism so devastating that not even an immortal could survive it. The show ran for just 56 performances before closing down, leading it to be one of the most expensive flops in Broadway’s history reportedly losing a shocking $12 million dollars. Now that’s a story that could cause nightmares.
However, a few year later collaborators Elton John and Bernie Taupin decided to resurrect the monster’s popularity on the theater circuit with their musical, Lestat. Based loosely on Ann Rice’s popular Vampire Chronicles series of books, the play followed the titular bloodsucker across the first many years of his vampire career, showing his complicated relationship with fellow vampire, Armand. Despite less elaborate effects and production values than the original San Francisco run and the eventual phasing out of much of Rice’s mythology, the play was fairly well received and was even nominated for two Tony’s. Following Dance of the Vampire’s abysmal showing, Lestat seemed to give vampires a more respectable image on the stage.
Its been a few years since Lestat graced the stage and no other major production has replaced it to give vamps more Broadway presence, but with the fanatical popularity of sanguine properties such as HBO’s True Blood and the Twilight franchise, how long can it be before more vampires step out of the shadows and into the bright lights of Broadway?