Polañski changes his tune


When the "Tanz der Vampires" (Dance of the Vampires) opened in October 1997 at Vienna's Raimund Theatre, the audience numbered more than a thousand. Michael Kunze, writer of the German-language versions of many Broadway musicals and whose songs have won several Grammy awards, composed the music for the show. The € 4 million production was a musical parody the likes of which Austrian audiences had not seen for years. The adaptation of filmmaker Roman Polañski's 1967 movie "The Fearless Vampire Killers or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck" was the nearest thing to a Broadway or West End ideal. By the time "Dance of the Vampires" finally made it onto a Broadway stage, opening on December 9 in the Minskoff Theatre, its budget had already hit € 12 million.

The show now has a new director, John Rando, and a new choreographer, John Carrafa, both of whom were nominated for Tony and Drama Desk awards last year. The music and the words (based on Michael Kunze's lyrics) were penned by Jim Steinman, while the script was drafted by Kunze, Steinman and David Ives, an avant-garde playwright. Michael Crawford, who won acclaim for his role in "The Phantom of the Opera," heads the cast. "Dance of the Vampires" is Polañski's first musical, although he has already directed operas, plays and "plays with a strong musical presence," such as Peter Shaffer's "Amadeus."

"I wanted to complete this project for years," Polañski said of his latest venture. "It took us four years to prepare the Vienna show, and I am very pleased with the results."

Polañski said that the process behind the staging of "Dance of Vampires" was "entirely international." "Our team consisted of an American composer, a German author, an American star and choreographer, designers from the UK, dancers from Europe and the US, a screenwriter from Germany and the musical director, Rudi Klausnitzer, who speaks French, German and English.

"When it was suggested that 'The Fearless Vampire Killers' could be staged as a musical, I wanted for it to be an adventure," Polañski continued. "One can't just change a film into a theatre show. One can base a play on a film,
but it has to be translated for the stage as something unique. Creating the scenic characters and dialogues took a lot of time. I had to figure out a new work process and that is when I turned to experts with the concept I had."

Polañski chose Michael Kunze, a journalist, TV writer and author, and a man who knows Broadway and the music industry well, to co-write the music and the script. Kunze has also achieved musical success in Austria and Germany.
Since the late 1970s, Kunze has been responsible for the German, Austrian and Swiss adaptations of musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim, among others. Polañski and Kunze were very close professionally when work on the musical adaptation began.

"But the musical theatre is not really his (Polañski's) domain and he left me a free hand," Kunze said. "Roman made several suggestions and approved the end product. The translation and musical adaptation for a foreign-language audience requires more work than a typical translation. I have learned to enter the personality of the author in order to convey his thoughts and rhythms."

Kunze said that "the matter of transferring the show to the stage was not simple because it is a parody." "I had to find a relevant style," he said. "The film never took full advantage of the music." "That is when the language barrier appeared," Polañski said. "Neither myself, nor Jim Steinman, the composer, speak any German. Fortunately, Michael and I speak English, so the play was first written in English and later it was translated into German. Now it is playing on Broadway, so we made a full circle."

By Ellis Nassour of Nowy Dziennik, a Polish-language paper published in New York City. This is the first contribution in our new exchange arrangement.



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