"Dance of the Vampires" premiered today in NY. It's the first musical on Broadway that was written by a German.
Anja Reich. (translation PKP)
New York in December. Michael Kunze feels it. They'll trash it. The NY Times will write that it's a failed attempt to revive a classical genre. Or something similar. Likely they'll also mention that it was a German who wrote the show. A German! Germans may be able to write dramas, but musicals? Tonight Dance of the Vampires premiers in NY. Jim Steinman wrote the music. Michael Kunze the book. It's the first German Musical on Broadway. It's a little sensation.
Michael Kunze waits in front of the theater entrance of the Minskoff on Times Square. Yesterday evening he arrived from Munich. He's pale and somewhat tired. Next to the theater is a crowd of teenagers. They're waiting for some MTV-Star or other who's supposed to exit the TV station. They don't know Michael Kunze. He pushes his way past a girl in an attempt to get to Times Square. High up on the theater hangs the ad for his musical. A couple, hugging each other, behind them the full moon. "Dance of the Vampires" the new Broadway show.
Bram Stoker was the first to tell the story a hundred years past. After that it was told and retold. Everytime a tad different. Sometimes serious, sometimes eerie, sometimes ironic. There was a count in a castle, who kidnapped the beautiful daughter of an inn-keeper, and a professor from Heidelberg who wants to destroy all vampires. There were coffins from which dark creatures arose, suitcases with stakes, garlic and crucifixes and a lot of blood. The book gave birth to horror movies and on those movies Polanski made a parody. That was in 1967. 30 years later, Michael Kunze wrote the book for the musical Tanz der Vampire.
His story tells the tale of a triangle relationship between Sarah, the Count and Alfred the assistent. Sarah loves the assistent but craves for the count. She's a bored young woman who's tired of living with her parents, yearns for adventures and accepts the counts invitation to celebrate her 18th birthday at a ball in his castle what will prove to be her downfall.
Polanski directed the show. It was the first and only time that he dared to enter this genre. 1997 Tanz premiered in Vienna, two years later in Stuttgart. It was a tremendous success. Critics wrote that it'd be the best musical that Europe ever saw. And now it's in NY. Five years it took to find producers for the 14 million dollar production. New dates were set. First
Polanski is no longer in the team. But that is the least surprise. Polanski had something with a 13 year old in Jack Nicholsons house 25 years ago and is not able to travel to the US since then. It's not certain what happened back then. Polanski never spoke about it. But he wouldn't have come anyway. Michael Kunze says that the changes wouldn't appeal to Roman. "What is shown here is a completely new version." It's a compromise. To Broadway, to the new audience. He wanted it easier, more comical, more american. The German version was too heavy for the new director John Rando. Kunze says that each culture has it's own peculiarlies. In Tokio he had to remove a scene with an insane person from Elisabeth, because nuts are not shown in puplic there.
He tries not to take it too hard, not to make too many expectations. This is Broadway. Here the shows are four times as expensive than in Europe. Here the rules are different. One has to follow them to stay in business. Jim Steinman rewrote Kunzes book together with David Ives, who has a made a name for himself on Broadway as good writer. They rewrote everything. The beginning, the end. They cut songs, replaced them with dialogues. Changed characters, cut characters, even the vampire became comical. In Kunzes version he was a tragical figure.
He flew to NY to negotiate the changes. The new beginning was ok with him, but he wanted more songs and less dialogues. And a different ending. He didn't like the death of the count and that the vampires look like freaks. The last scene should play in modern time, the vampires have survived and are everywhere. In banks, offices, townhalls. Kunze says that has something cynical.
They agreed to meet in the middle. The ending was changed and 30 % of the dialogues cut. But the count had to die. MC, who plays the count, wants it that way. Rando explained to Kunze that a musical needs a lot of dialogues because that's entertaining. That people who pay 100 dollars for a ticket want to have a nice evening. That a song called God is Dead may not be played on a stage in America due to the people being puritans. And that MC may die on the stage whenever he wants to. He's the star. The people love him. Hence he can decide on those matters.
Kunze is torn. He doesn't want the count to die, it doesn't fit the story. But he doesn't want troubles with MC either, he's the one selling the show. It runs astountingly well. Even the previews were almost sold out every day. The show is currently on place 4 in NY even though it didn't officially open yet.
"Of course that is good" says Kunze and laughs. He is almost 60 years old. He wrote 3 books, his novel about witch trials in the middle ages was translated into numerous languages and is a bestseller in the US. His songs became hits. "Ein Bett im Kornfeld", "Griechischer Wein". "Fly Robin Fly" even made it to the American charts. Later he translated musicals and
A few days ago he took part in a discussion with directors, choreographers and writers on Broadway, which was aired on TV. It was the first time that he was invited. He now belongs there. He proposes to go to the lounge of Algonquin Hotel, where Broadway stars and writers met in the 20s. The waiter serves coffee and cakes on a silber tablet. The walls are made of dark wood, huge pillars part the halls in little niches.
Normally a place where you could forget about stress, but Kunze must think of the critics. They're very conservative he says. They'd like classical pieces. Stepdances, straw-hats and always "that bigband music I hate". He fears that his show is too modern for Broadway. But he wants it just that way. To try something new. Something like Rocky Horror Picture Show. Young audience. And not always those travelling busses from New Jersey.
On this evening they're still coming to the Minskoff Theater. The busses. Women with high and stiff hairstyles, men with a middle parting and a bad mood because their wives demanded their presence. The usherettes wear black capes, in the program you can read that the musical is written by David Ives and Jim Steinman. Michael Kunze is on third place.
It starts with a scream. 3 girls run through a forest. Sarah and her girl-friends. Thunder rolls. A huge coffin rises from the ground. The lid opens. Michael Crawfords entrance. Big and dressed all in black with white face and a weird smile. "God has left the Building" he declares. The audience raves. Crawford is funny, has a good voice and always spectacular entrances.
At one point he comes from an enourmous drawbridge out of the darkness, a different time he dances down a staircase like a rockstar and gives the other vampires autograms. At the end he dies. Crying, calling for help he turns to ashes when he's hit by the daylight. He's always a tad himself, but that isn't a problem.
Everything is staged very beautifully, apart from some dialogues. In the scene where Sarah received blood from Alfred, her father tells him that "you may have given her your blood, but that will be the only bodily fluid you've exchanged". In a different scene the count unexpectedly reveals a penis shaped sponge and offers it to Alfred saying "I have something for you". Those scenes never were in the German version.
Otherwise it's a perfect show, with a breathtaking choreography, sensual love songs, a lot of special effects and a grandious scenery. At the end the audience applauds and gives the cast a standing ovation, and it's hardly thinkable that the critics will give the show a bad review. It may not fit anymore in Germany, but here on Broadway it fits perfectly. But you never know. Gilbert Becauds show Madame Rosa ran for 2 days only on Bway. Two days. Then the show had to close. The NYTimes destroyed it. GB got extremely ill after that, he believed too much in his success.