BWW Review: DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES at Musical Dome, Cologne - The Vampires take a big, juicy bite out of Cologne

BWW Review: DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES at Musical Dome, Cologne - The Vampires take a big, juicy bite out of CologneI attended the World Premiere Production of DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES (TANZ DER VAMPIRE) shortly after it opened in October 1997, as I knew a number of members of the original cast, some of whom are good friends of mine. The show was produced with top-flight actors, including the late Steve Barton as the Count von Krolock, a knock-out set and was directed by the legendary Roman Polanski himself. Jim Steinmann's score was, for the most part, very effective, especially "Total Eclipse of the Heart," ("Totale Finsternis) and "Death is such an odd thing," ("Tot zu sein ist komisch,") and sometimes even moving "Outside, there's freedom," ("Draußen ist Freiheit"). The show boasted the translation of the original film script, as well as book and lyrics by the German Oscar Hammerstein II, Michael Kunze. Everything was assembled to create a hit musical, and yet somehow, the production in Vienna left me cold. I found the show slow, and self-serious. All of the tongue-in-cheek humor of Mr. Polanski's film was missing from the musical. After the performance, I presciently said, "If they bring this show to Broadway, it will last about a month." Five years later, in 2002, the Broadway Production with Michael Crawford as the Count, lasted about seven weeks.

It was with great trepidation that I entered the Musical Dome in Cologne, 20 years later, to watch DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES again. To my surprise, it was a quick-footed, highly-entertaining show that was a vast improvement over the original Viennese production.

BWW Review: DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES at Musical Dome, Cologne - The Vampires take a big, juicy bite out of Cologne

Due to the advances in stage effects, William Dudley's set, abetted by fantastic, high-definition video projections is now an intricate part of the action. Dennis Callahan's choreography, which in 1997 came across as derivative of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" has been simplified and has greatly-improved story-telling qualities. Like the rest of the production, Sue Blane's marvelous costumes have also been simplified and add more focus to the action onstage. The Tanz der Vampire Orchestra, ably conducted by Ratan Jhaveri played extremely well.

Then, there was the sound. The sound team in the Musical Dome blasted the orchestra at such a high volume, that those sitting near the speakers could easily have hearing damage. The volume in the theater should be reduced by at least 20 or more decibels. This is not an exaggeration. There was constant feedback from the actor's microphones, and the equalization of the microphones was incorrect, resulting in a sound so shrill, that I found myself covering my ears again and again during the performance. In a production that has been running in the same theater since February, this is both unacceptable and unprofessional. This critic would advise BB Promotions (the Tour Management of the show) to fire their entire sound team and hire a completely new crew before the musical moves to Berlin in October.

The biggest change, however, can be traced to director Cornelius Baltus. Working from Roman Polanski's original direction, Mr. Baltus has sharpened the focus of the scenes and action and, more importantly, found the comic tone that was sorely missing in the original production. The show now seems more a late 1960's sex farce with singing vampires, rather than the heavy slog with moody vampires that it was in Vienna.

BWW Review: DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES at Musical Dome, Cologne - The Vampires take a big, juicy bite out of CologneJan Kriz was a big-voiced, macho Count von Krolock. He's a magnetic stage presence with the "Silent Movie" gestures and excellent diction that reminds one of the first superstar vampire, Bela Lugosi. Both Pamina Lenn and Sara Jane Checchi as Sarah and Magda, respectively, are powerhouse vocalists with amazing extension in their upper belt registers. Mr. Steinmann's music is not particularly "singer-friendly." He places a flood of words in very high vocal registers and repeats his phrases, ad infinitum. These ladies acquitted themselves marvelously.

Tom van der Ven's take on Alfred was both nerdy and somewhat asexual. While that interpretation has it's merits, vocally, Mr. van der Ven was not up to the caliber of the rest of this cast. Pascal Höwing sang Professor Abronsius' catalog songs "Logic" and "Books, Books" with an aplomb that would make any Rossini aficionado proud.

The vampires in DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES dance, a lot. While the entire dance ensemble gave the show their all, special mention must be made of the dance soloists Sonny Grieveson, Maté Gyenie, and Martina Borroni. All their dances were sexy, magnetic and thrilling.

Over the last 20 years, DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES has been successful all over the world, with the exception of Broadway. Perhaps, in this streamlined, more comic version, Stage Entertainment should try to pound a stake through the heart of the Great White Way (pun intended) and bring their singing vampires back to Broadway.

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From This Author Mark Janicello

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