Michael Coveney's Broadway Review

     
 

The Daily Mail

Tuesday December 10th 2002

Michael Crawford just cannot shake off his dead-of-the-night habits and high-collared cape.

He spent the last half of the 1980's as Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera in London, New York and Los Angeles. Having spent the last ten years or so milking that success as a top-line cabaret star, he returns to Broadway, opening last night as Count von Krolock, a 19th century blood-sucking aristocrat holed up in Lower Transylvania.

In some ways, he is spoofing his own turn as the Phantom, released from the imprisonment of his mask and hell-bent on winning a beautiful young woman, Sarah (Mandy Gonzalez) - remember that Crawford played opposite Sarah Brightman in The Phantom - while staving off the attentions of a visiting vampire killer.

Instead of Lloyd Webber's pungent operatics, we have knockabout Gothic rock with a twist by Jim Steinman, who very nearly worked on The Phantom first time around.

Steinman wrote some great lyrics for Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down the Wind, but is best known for his super-charged songs for Meat Loaf, Bonnie Tyler and Celine Dion.

He might not be at his absolute best here, but he certainly sinks his teeth into the vampiric chorus numbers, where scantily clad creatures of the night cavort through graveyards and screech to the moon.

Steinman and his German collaborator, writer Michael Kunze, base their work on a Roman Polanski film and have enlisted our own, highly efficient Michael Reed as musical supervisor and arranger. Crawford presides over this camp nuttiness like a long-haired loon, grinning at the fun and singing gloriously like a fallen angel, in a swirl of dry ice and a panoply of candles, just as he did in Phantom.

Whether or not the show succeeds might depend on how it strikes two different types of audience, the Phantom fans and the cult musical freaks. Once you tune into the arch sleaziness of it all, John Rando's production gathers steam as it goes along, with a great entrance for Crawford on a huge draw-bridge and a tremendous ball scene.

This is where Crawford has his big number in praise of appetite, a flat-out hilarious confession of a deadly carnivore with no time for garlicky goodie-goodies.

And does he rise to that moment? Put it this way, Crawford has been the biggest British musical theatre star of the past 30 years, from Billy to Barnum to Phantom. He still is. He flies like a bat out of hell.

 

 

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