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“Dance of the Vampires,” a new musical by Jim Steinman and Michael Kunze, opened on Broadway sometime in the fall of 2002. I don’t understand how it lasted past Thanksgiving. The plot was boring and predictable; the music was uninspiring and unoriginal, drawing heavily on Steinman’s older material; the jokes and puns were groan-worthy at best; the dance numbers were few and unimpressive. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, this is not a musical to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown aside with great force.

The Plot

Boring and trite, the plot relied heavily on cliché and really lacked continuity. A lot of potential subplot lines were introduced and then abandoned immediately. For example, in the first scene we meet Sarah, our heroine, and her two friends Zsa-Zsa and Nadja. The stupid trio is out picking mushrooms in the middle of the night deep in the woods of Transylvania in the year "1880-something." Zsa-Zsa and Nadja, aside from having much more interesting names than Sarah, are given very definate personalities, but are captured by vampires in the next number and are seen again, except for a token two-line appearance in the second act. The writers also introduce a couple potential conflicts involving Sarah's father: his apprehension at the idea of his daughter turning 18, getting married, and leaving him (expressed in the song "Don't Leave Daddy"), and his lust for Magda, the Bulgarian slut (I don't know why it's important that she's Bulgarian, and I apologize to any Bulgarians who may be offended by this) who works at his inn. Both conflicts are dropped and completely forgotten about when he becomes a vampire and ceases to care about anything but sex and feeding.

The actual storyline is predictable from the first two or three scenes: girl meets vampire. Vampire entrances girl and arranges for a rendez vous at another time--in this case, at midnight on Halloween during a total eclipse of the moon, which also happens to be Sarah's 18th birthday. A vampire hunter shows up in the girl's village, promises to rid the frightened townspeople of the vampire. Girl falls in love with the vampire hunter's assistant. Vampire hunter and his lovestruck assistant follow the girl to the vampire's castle and come pretty close to saving her and ridding the world of vampires, but ultimately the vampires win and run around dancing and singing. The end.

The Music

Running through the whole show is a shameless and none too creative reworking of Jim Steinman's "Total Eclipse of the Heart." The show also borrows the opening lines from Meatloaf's "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" ("Would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?"), also written by Steinman. I have no idea what creative purpose recycling Steinman’s old song serves. This is especially baffling if you don’t realize that the same person wrote both “Total Eclipse” and the score for “Dance of the Vampires,” in which case it seems like the creators of “Dance” just stole a random song from the 80s and worked it into their musical. Even the reference to the total eclipse of the moon, which is part of a prophecy that is referred to often but never fully explained, is a weak explanation. In my mind, this originally lovely song will be forever tainted by association with this musical.

The songs that appear to have been created for the sole purpose of appearing in this musical were corny and poorly performed. "Garlic," the townspeople's ode to their favorite vampire-repelling seasoning, contains such lyrical gems as "Garlic, garlic, it's the secret of staying young. Garlic, garlic, it's why we're so well-hung." The vampire hunter sings "Logic," which tries to be a Gilbert and Sullivan-esque patter song, but the poor professor can't keep up with the orchestra. "Carpe Noctem" features vampires dancing around singing random Latin words: "Dies Irae, Kyrie, requiem et Domine." In one scene, the main vampire's homosexual son tries to seduce the vampire hunter's assistant in an offensive and disgusting musical number. The scene is an excuse to show off some “special effects:” a mirror that shows the assistant's reflection but not the vampire's. The effect is achieved by having the assistant's dance double mirror his motions behind a large frame representing the mirror, and would have worked nicely if this assistant and his double had been together. The magic was broken several times by the double running out on stage a second before the assistant and turning the wrong way.

For a show called "Dance of the Vampires," there was surprisingly little dancing. The major characters didn't dance at all, and there were only five full-cast dance numbers out of 26 songs.

The overall feeling at the end of this show is relief that it's over. It relied far too heavily on bad sexual jokes, recycled music, poorly executed special effects, and a boring plot to be taken seriously. I strongly recommend that you do everything in your power to avoid seeing this musical.

Update: Jet-Poop has just informed me that "Dance of the Vampires" has now officially closed. The world is a happier place.

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