My family and I went to see Dance of the Vampires on Friday, December 13. The critics - who were unkind to the show in general - went out of their way to single René's work out for praise, and deservedly so. It was a pleasure and a privilege to watch him back on the stage.
The audience was having a terrific time. My girls - age 12 and 15 1/2 - both liked it tremendously. And the dispatcher for the car I had called to take us to the theater, when he heard what show we were going to see, broke into unsolicited raves, telling me how much he had loved it, and how much fun we were going to have.
Max von Essen (son of New York City's former Fire Commissioner, and just by virtue of that fact someone I was hoping would acquit himself well) played the male ingenue, and has quite a nice voice. In fact, the entire cast was tremendously talented.
Having said all of that, the show itself - as a piece of theater - had all the problems concerning which the critics complained. All the talent and the tech in the world couldn't save that book which, if I understand correctly, is not the book that is playing in Vienna. The original show was apparently a "rock opera", sung through, with a darker, more gothic feel.
It appears that when the show was coming to New York, someone decided that the show should not be sung through after all, should instead be lighter and comedic in tone, and wrote a new book for it; a new book that is, frankly, out of sync with the feel of the sets, the costumes, and the music. Not that we had a bad time; we didn't. It was a treat to watch René, and was well worth it on that score alone.
We went to the show on Friday night (yes Friday the 13th!) knowing that the reviews had not been good. The show had opened on Monday night. We had been reading the reviews in the Post and the Times. The reviewers were NOT kind to Michael Crawford or to the writers of this show. They were, however, all very kind to René. When we got to see the show, it was easy to see why!
I have to say that in spite of whatever the reviewers might have thought, this show had everything that I go to a Broadway musical to see. Choreography? It had the sharpest, most energetic and slick dancers I've seen in a long time! Sets? The sets were absolutely spectacular! Talented performers? The vocal talents of this group were absolutely top notch. Good music? While the show lacked for memorable songs that one might hum all the way home, the music was energetic and/or beautiful throughout and a pleasure to listen to.
But I had gone to THIS musical for one main reason and that was to see René. I flew from Arizona to Long Island, road a train into Manhattan, and stood in the rain for 45 minutes waiting for a cab. The night of the show we had to abandon our cab on the way to the theater because of standstill traffic and walk blocks and blocks in the rain. When the show was over it was still raining and after not being able to find a cab, we walked a mile in the rain to the subway. And I'll tell you - it was ALL worth it. Every single bit of it!
From the second René came onto the stage, I was charmed, excited, and absolutely thrilled to see that he was every bit as good as I had known he would be! It wasn't quite as good as seeing my own sons on stage for the first time, but it was right up there close and the next best thing! René was absolutely fantastic! His "patter" song never missed a beat, his jokes got the biggest laughs, and when he was on stage, every eye in the house was with him - you just couldn't not watch him!
So what were the critics griping about? Well, the story/plot is weak. Michael Crawford's costume looks silly and his character never really develops very well. I already mentioned a lack of memorable songs ("Total Eclipse of the Heart" was memorable but every time they came to it, it inspired giggles throughout the house - hard to take it seriously for some reason). There were corny lines ("You show me mine and I'll show you yours…") and some adolescent style humour that seemed beneath the show (most notably a phallic sponge gag).
But I didn't care. All of that could be forgiven because it was an upbeat, entertaining and exciting evening and it featured René! What more could one ask for? But after all…Friday the 13th always HAS been my lucky day!