That old Feeling - by Richard Corliss
Best Lost Cause: “Dance of the Vampires.”
The critics feasted on Jim Steinman’s dark pop musical as if it were a virgin’s pale throat begging for predatory fangs. It lost millions in its three-month Broadway run, which ended ignominiously Saturday night. So of course I liked it. I’ve had a soft spot in my head heart for Steinman since he wrote the “Bat Out of Hell” album for Meat Loaf, back in prehistoric vinyl days. The vigor of “Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young” and his other songs for the film “Streets of Fire,” which I saw in Los Angeles in 1984, sent me racing along Mulholland Drive, to keep up with the propulsive beat. I swooned under the operatic pretensions of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” his 1983 hit for Bonnie Tyler. Steinman was the guy I kept calling for to rejuvenate, or just plain juvenate, the Broadway musical. And now Broadway has told him to go back to the Bat cave. If we want a hip pop sound, the musical theater establishment pronounced, we’ll play old ABBA records.
Maybe 50s rock ’n roll with a 70s preen isn’t what the 80-year-olds who constitute Broadway’s audience want to hear. But I knew from the first number — an angelic trio with a beguiling (what did they used to call it?) melody and some expert (the Andrews Sisters used to do it) harmony — that this would be my kind of score. In invention and effortless tonal rapture “Dance” is not up to the level of “Chess,” the great mid-80s score the ABBA guys wrote with Tim Rice, but it’s in the ballpark. The production, in the rock-mock-Wagnerian style that tends to play better in London and Las Vegas than in Manhattan, boasted some fine voices and sexy dancers.
Mainly, though, I wanted to hear Steinman’s score again. Well, the New York reviews were so defiling that the Broadway cast was not recorded. But there is an album of the original Berlin production production, called “Tanz der Vampire.” All right, it’s in German, but think of all the English-language rock German kids listen to. And the 2-CD set is available from amazon.de for about $33.50, which is $10-15 less than you’d pay for it in the U.S., if you could find it. Order now, and the CD could arrive by Valentine’s Day.