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Dance of the Vampires - Why did it fail?

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bwayphreak234
Broadway Legend
joined:7/4/10
I did a search and could not find anything, but I apologize in advance if I messed up and missed something!

For those who saw Dance of the Vampires, what did you think? Based on what I have seen and heard of the show it looks like a big splashy musical with a lot of fun campy numbers. Why did this do so poorly on Broadway? It struck me as the type of show that had the potential to catch on and be as big of a hit as Wicked, Phantom, of Lion King. Huge sets, stunning costumes, and it had that WOW factor. I have never seen the show live, but for those of you that have, why do you think it flopped?
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trentsketch
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joined:6/25/09
They significantly cut down on the camp value for the Broadway run. The new book wasn't nearly as funny as it could have been and tried to play way too much of the story straight.
After Eight
Broadway Legend
joined:6/5/09
It was a complete mess, lacking in focus, style, craft. Some of it was unintentionally, (or was intentionally?) laughable, eg. "Garlic."

I didn't think the design elements had anything near a WOW factor. It looked sloppy, shoddy, and ugly.
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Mr Roxy
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/03
It failed because it was BAD
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songanddanceman2
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joined:8/31/06
I enjoyed it in terms of a camp disaster, the jokes were terrible but you could not help laugh. Some of the performances were pretty good and i have to say i thought the set was fantastic (the draw bridge in particular looks brilliant). The whole thing just did not come together though, it was overworked yet under thought out. Many say that it ruined the original by going camp but having seen both i have to say Tanz Der Vampire is very camp as well (though far better)
Namo i love u but we get it already....you don't like Madonna
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Jane2
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joined:2/13/04
I liked it a lot. Only got to see it 4 times before it closed tho.
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James885
Broadway Legend
joined:5/2/05
It was a hot mess. The book was all over the place, trying to be campy and comedic one moment and dead serious the next. The score was (mostly) serviceable, although the opening number was awful and the 'Garlic' number was just laughably bad. And Michael Crawford's faux Dracula-like accent was atrocious.

The set was the best part of the show. The graveyard that descended from the flies looked fantastic.

"You drank a charm to kill John Proctor's wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor!" - Betty Parris to Abigail Williams in Arthur Miller's The Crucible
Updated On: 12/26/12 at 09:58 PM
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darquegk
Broadway Legend
joined:2/5/09
The show was not only trying to be two different shows at once, it WAS two different shows at once, unsure which one it wanted to be more of.

On one hand, you have the side most influenced by the European version, "Tanz der Vampire." Though Tanz has its comic moments, it is in many ways a relatively serious deconstruction of the vampire genre (one might even call the European "Tanz" the Watchmen of vampires), poking apart the fearless hero, the chaste heroine, the superstitious locals, the wise vampire hunter/mystic, the erotic vampire king and the 90s-chic beautiful gay vampire. This version also has its roots in the European megamusical genre, stylistically, with its traditional themes of epic love against a backdrop of violence and fear, counterpointed by a comic grotesque or two who serve as darkly comic villians.

On the other hand, you have the side developed by the American production team. This show drew on the farcical tone present in the original Polanski film "Dance of the Vampires; or The Fearless Vampire Killers; or Pardon me, but your teeth are in my neck." Rather than being a semiserious deconstruction of the vampire mythos, this version decided to be an all-out spoof of all things vampire, using the original Tanz as a framework in the same way that Tanz used the Roman Polanski film as a jumping-off point. Incorporating spoken dialogue instead of the European version's recitative and shifting the tone heavily to parody, the production team shot for an approximation of the "highbrow-lobrow" film genre of the 1960s and 1970s, the era of Inspector Clouseau, the early Woody Allen, and the high point of Mel Brooks, whose style in "The Producers" and "Young Frankenstein" is evoked in the new comic script. If the team had committed itself entirely to this revision, it would have been a valid choice- though the American DOTV is undoubtedly a hot mess, some moments and one-liners are genuinely funny.

Why did it fail, then? Simply put, both shows are too present in the mix. A final decision in tone was never made: slapstick interludes and farcical comedy are interspersed with long sections of rhapsodic Euro-operetta; completely comic characters are suddenly and inexplicably given dramatic, deathly serious moments. When Count von Krolock, the ambiguously European vampire who has cracked wise, dropped innuendoes and POSSIBLY been implied to cross-dress as his own mother, suddenly monologues in song about the existential pain of eternal life and of losing everything and everyone he loves, the effect is mawkish, insincere. Dance of the Vampires: A Vampire Comedy would have been a good show. Dance of the Vampires: A Euro-Drama would have been a good show. Dance of the Vampires was not a good show, though it had its entertaining moments.
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once a month
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joined:4/16/04
two words...Michael Crawford. Though it did have a few moments, I've never 'rolled' my eyes so often during a show, I just couldn't wait for it to end.
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Jane2
Broadway Legend
joined:2/13/04
Crawford was so funny in this role that he provided most of the entertainment for me. That hair, that makeup, that costume that looked like those $.99 ones in Duane Reade. Priceless! And how about when he kept having to turn his back to the audience to fix his false teeth or wig?

<-----craves juicy pizza
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songanddanceman2
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joined:8/31/06
Crawford was a hot mess but did make me giggle. I have the show on DVD and when im in the mood to laugh i put it on
Namo i love u but we get it already....you don't like Madonna
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g.d.e.l.g.i.
Broadway Legend
joined:6/13/12
This show was always a war between two shows, going back to the very beginning of its existence. This whole thing began as two different projects: Jim Steinman's vampire musical, and Roman Polanski's vampire musical. In the Eighties, Jim wrote "Total Eclipse of the Heart" for an un-produced adaptation of Murnau's Nosferatu, the silent movie that was basically a rip-off of Dracula; before Jim abandoned work on it, it became (stylistically) like a combo of that and Interview With the Vampire. He always thought that vampires were a great subject for an opera or a musical. For whatever reason, Jim abandoned the project and it never happened.

In 1991, a guy named Andrew Braunsberg (who co-produced some of Polanski's hit films, and other movies like Andy Warhol's Frankenstein and Dracula, Being There, and The Postman Always Rings Twice) had this idea of musicalizing Polanski's film, The Fearless Vampire Killers, which was one of the pictures he co-produced. Michael Kunze was hired to write the script. Now, Kunze wanted to work with a contemporary composer; I'm not sure why Sylvester Levay wasn't on it like he's been on all of Kunze's other projects, but I suspect that if Levay was mooted about, Polanski may not have wanted to be outnumbered. (I recall hearing of story meetings where Polanski said he didn't want rock and roll, he wanted it to be more like one of Disney's musicals, where they go "BOO!" and then the kids laugh.) Other composers were looked at, including Boublil & Schonberg.

It's never been exactly clear how, but the two projects converged. I recall hearing there was renewed interest in Steinman's Nosferatu, and it somehow led to Tanz. My guess is, like what's (allegedly) currently happening with Bat Out of Hell, Jim tried to write a book on his own, but he doesn't think in commercial terms, and he doesn't have the strongest grasp of plot, so his manager was probably having a hard time selling Jim's vision. The score for Tanz was written very quickly, and that has never been a secret; Jim talks in interviews about having written the score in a month and a half, and on his blog he mentions four or five songs that came into the project already written without Michael Kunze's lyrics. My theory? He had a score and no book. They had a book and no score. Mutually beneficial.

(See next post)
Formerly gvendo2005
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g.d.e.l.g.i.
Broadway Legend
joined:6/13/12
We all know of the show's success upon its 1997 Vienna opening. Six IMAGE Awards, rave reviews, cast album entered the Austrian charts at #4. Success that was equaled in Germany in 2000, where it was voted Musical of the Year. And then Broadway producers started saying, "Ah, so Steinman has written a vampire musical. More importantly, it works. Let's do lunch, darling."

The more people who were interested in it because of Jim, the more Jim wanted to do the show "his way." He saw the opportunity to reintroduce some of his own ideas to the show from his original vampire piece. There are references to various other vampire films (I always thought there was a scene with girls dancing in a graveyard in one of the Nosferatu flicks, but maybe that was another film); there were design notes that included underlined passages of Stoker's Dracula. And of course Jim wanted to recycle dialogue from his notorious Neverland piece.

Meanwhile, Kunze was sitting at home in Germany waiting, assuming the producers would call when it was time for him to come in, that they would ask for advice or at least tell him rewrites were being done, seeing as he was the co-author and held rights to the script. Michael thought he could be "hands off," because other people had done his shows in other countries without changing too much of the material except what might offend regional sensibilities. In NY, shows cost four times as much as in Europe (blame the unions), they're far riskier propositions than a national theater in Vienna. He was letting Jim handle it because Jim knew NY theater better, or said he did.

The original plan was to use the new material with the same stage and costume designs as in Europe. Steve Barton, the original lead in Europe, was set to star. But then he started his decline, which is better documented elsewhere. The producers started quietly looking for other people. And of course, we all know what happened to Steve... such a shame.

Eventually, "other people" meant hiring a star, because they needed some sort of drawing card not just for audiences, but for investors, who had already begun their "people only want to see people they know and/or recognizable brands" spiel. One of the people they'd been in talks with was Michael Crawford; he wanted more changes because he didn't want to basically play The Phantom of the Opera with fangs, he wanted it to be funnier. David Ives was called in to help re-configure the book to this end, and then 9/11 happened, and the show had to change its opening date. As a result of that, much of the financing fell through, which meant they couldn't use the German designs and had to bring the show in more cheaply, using mainly painted backdrops.

(See next post)
Formerly gvendo2005
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g.d.e.l.g.i.
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joined:6/13/12
Now, because they couldn't get Polanski into the country, and because Crawford wanted a comedy, they went with the team from the Tony-winning Urinetown, John Rando and John Carrafa. Rando, who'd only ever worked on small musicals like Urinetown and chamber piece type plays up till then (i.e., small situations involving few people), was suddenly confronted with a spectacular spectacular with a large cast (or at least larger than he was used to) and a temperamental star. It was like directing an army. Worse than that, he couldn't get Jim and Crawford, the two major forces on the production, to agree. He was more a referee than a director. There were fights over costume designs and changing the ending. He was out of his depth. As for Carrafa, he did more of his usual choreography ("Just rock out!").

Somewhere in this mess, somebody sent Michael Kunze the new script, and he came to NY immediately hopping mad. He tried to move to get the show shut down and use only a close translation of the German version, starting with an injunction to prevent them from continuing until his version was restored. He was essentially blackmailed. The producers, from Kunze's account, said they'd play it his way if he put up $10 million (some sort of deposit or bond) in case his version was a flop, so everybody could be paid back their investment. Kunze, for all his success in Europe, didn't have $10 million to throw down on that. And given the circumstances, under-rehearsed and under duress, this production as re-adjusted to his version could not be anything but a flop, what with all the confusion and chaos surrounding it.

So then he tried getting his name taken off the show. But Jim had used enough of what worked about Tanz as a launchpad for his hodge-podge that removing the credit was not an option. And of course the producers were worried about resulting bad publicity, so they gave him a guilt trip about that. Kunze was forced to settle for making small changes, not as many as he could have made if he'd caught it in time, but enough that he could grin and bear the final product. And we know the result. The show was a flop; it lost something like $12 million at the box office, and for a brief time was Broadway's biggest financial failure in history.

More's the pity; it's funny to watch Steinman keep refusing responsibility, when really none of this would have happened if he'd just done a careful translation changing a few things for regional sensibilities and left well enough alone. Maybe it still would have flopped, but now we'll never know.

Formerly gvendo2005
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joined: 5/1/05

Blocked: After Eight, suestorm, FindingNamo, david_fick, emlodik, lovebwy
Updated On: 12/27/12 at 12:24 PM
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Jane2
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joined:2/13/04
" I have the show on DVD and when im in the mood to laugh i put it on."

So do I, and I watched it recently. Crawford was kind of Liberace-ish.
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metropolis10111
Leading Actor
joined:7/28/06
I was a HUGE fan of Tanz from the recording and got to see Dance day before it closed and it still rakes as one of the most fun nights of theater I've had. The show's book was a mess, the directing uneven, and character development non-existant but oh what an amazing mess it was. The show was by no means boring and at times the staging was jaw dropping. (Much like the castle entrance at the end of act one.) While me and the friend I was with were very amused and loved it we knew it was bad theater. The show was ALL about Michael all the time and his fans were out in droves that night.
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FindingNamo
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I loved doogie's book report up there. He takes us right into the room with the creatives, as if he and we were there. Of course, he was 8 and a half years old at the time. And of course, whoever he was quoting is anti-union.
'First the Bastille than the butt plug.' -- M ______
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SondheimFan5
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joined:6/20/10
The material was bad. The direction was bad. The choreography was bad. The production team did not communicate well enough. The cast was good enough but Crawford was not a big enough name-draw for a piece such as this. So, it flopped.
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Jane2
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joined:2/13/04
re: choreography.

I was helping monitor the dance auditions for this show, and I remember the dancers were dropping out like flies because it was too hard.
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newintown
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joined:3/3/10
I thought it was one if the most stupid, cheap, pointless pieces of theatre ever created.

And the low homophobic stuff was just offensive.
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g.d.e.l.g.i.
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joined:6/13/12
I loved doogie's book report up there. He takes us right into the room with the creatives, as if he and we were there. Of course, he was 8 and a half years old at the time. And of course, whoever he was quoting is anti-union.

* I share what I know in order to answer their question, no more, no less. If you want me to cite my sources, Professor, I am more than capable.
* Opened in December 2002, right? That would make me 12. Kudos on your math skills.
* I'm not anti-union by any means, but one cannot deny their bottom line adds to the cost.

It's alright. I forgive you, Namo. For this, and so many other things.

Formerly gvendo2005
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joined: 5/1/05

Blocked: After Eight, suestorm, FindingNamo, david_fick, emlodik, lovebwy
Updated On: 12/27/12 at 06:01 PM
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James885
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joined:5/2/05
Didn't Steinman walk out of rehearsals at one point? I also heard that he refused to attend opening night.
"You drank a charm to kill John Proctor's wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor!" - Betty Parris to Abigail Williams in Arthur Miller's The Crucible
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g.d.e.l.g.i.
Broadway Legend
joined:6/13/12
He's described it two ways: that he stopped attending on his own (which, for those asking for sources, is in Michael Riedel's feature article which shortly prefaced the show's closing), and that he was fired by his manager who was acting as lead producer (entry on his blog). Which is true? I couldn't tell you. But I believe that Jim believed in what he was doing until he got wind of what the reviews would be. He tends to have that issue.
Formerly gvendo2005
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Blocked: After Eight, suestorm, FindingNamo, david_fick, emlodik, lovebwy
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averagebwaynut
Leading Actor
joined:8/15/08
Having a fair amount of first hand knowledge about this show's life on Broadway, much of what gdelgi writes is true.

One detail that is not quite right is the impact of 9/11 and the resulting effect on the physical production. In point of fact, it was a lavish physical production that included only a few painted drops. Yes, there were two scenes that involved painted drops as the primary scenery -- the library (because the scene was so short) and the finale (because it was changed late in the process). But from the opening graveyard, to the inn set, to the candle-lit, skull enrusted grand staircase that opened the 2nd act, to the graveyard that descended from the ceiling weighing many tons (and requiring its own hydraulic assembly to be installed), to the double mirror effect requiring two sets of full stage mirrors from proscenium to floor, hydraulic traps/lifts built into the floor, multiple elaborate costumes for each ensemble member, prosthetics, scores of moving lights -- in short, this show may have skimped on plot development, coherence, humor and conceptual choreography but it sure didn't skip on the physical production.
"No matter how much you want the part, never let 'em see you sweat." -- Old Dry Idea commercial
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darquegk
Broadway Legend
joined:2/5/09
The hydraulic levitating coffin that opened the show went up for auction VERY cheaply on Ebay a few years ago, having been donated to one group after another. I don't know who has it now, but I almost had my theatre buy it simply on the grounds of being not only an infamous piece of scenery, but an infamous piece of BROADWAY scenery that we would make room for in a show if it killed us.

Alas, it was pickup only.
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g.d.e.l.g.i.
Broadway Legend
joined:6/13/12
One detail that is not quite right is the impact of 9/11 and the resulting effect on the physical production.

I may have over-hyperbolized (is that a word? is now), but the impact of 9/11 did lead directly to John Caird being off the show and the German designs not being used.
Formerly gvendo2005
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joined: 5/1/05

Blocked: After Eight, suestorm, FindingNamo, david_fick, emlodik, lovebwy

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