Admittedly, this show did not receive an official cast album, but since there is a widely available demo recording of the score, I decided to include it to complete the trilogy of vampire-themed disasters and fill out the discussion of Elton John’s Broadway work. Of the aforementioned vampire musicals, this was quite arguably the worst of the three. Unlike Dance of the Vampires or Dracula, which were a campy genre spoof and a blatant Phantom ripoff, respectively, this show had ambitions (or at least pretentions) of being some kind of high literary meditation on the despair of eternal existence.
Based on the first two books of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series, it had far more plot than could be comfortably fit into a standard two-and-a-half hour Broadway musical, but that problem ended up taking a backseat to the horrible writing. The laughably pretentious and overwrought book was simultaneously as embarrassing as Dance of the Vampires and almost as dull as Dracula, featuring some of the most melodramatic dialogue in Broadway history (at one point a character actually says “I will never find solace! She was my solace! She stood between me and the abyss!”). Granted, Anne Rice’s original material was not without its own brand of pretention and melodrama, but, at least in the two novels this musical is drawn from, it had a literate quality and poetic eloquence that the trashy, unintentionally comic romance-novel cliches on display here never approach.
And the score is much worse than either of its predecessors, lacking even the intermittent tunefulness of Dracula. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Anne Rice and Elton John would be a less than ideal combination, but this is arguably the worst music Elton John has ever written for anything. Elton John’s pop-ballad approach to musical theater had worked in Aida, but without Tim Rice’s penetrating lyrics to focus it, it comes off here as empty pop grandstanding, and it doesn’t help that the tunes he provided here are some of the weakest of his career. Amazingly enough, the lyrics are by his greatest collaborator, Bernie Taupin, but Taupin’s work here is even worse than John’s. Taupin was capable of great eloquence, but he also had his heavy-handed moments, and this show seems to be a compendium of all his worst habits; it also features enough false rhymes to make Peter Allen blush. The songs are so cheesy you could spread them on crackers, constantly spouting hokey vampire-related genre cliches in both the music and lyrics, with “I Want More” and “Morality Play” ranking with the most legendary Floppo numbers of the decade.
The cast sing well and do their best with the material, but only Carolee Carmello as Gabrielle and Allison Fischer as Claudia make much of an impact, and the high-powered vocalism and melodramatic acting on display here is much less effective than the subtler, more dignified approach seen in the film version of Interview With the Vampire, which helped moderate the excesses of Rice’s source material. This isn’t quite the worst musical of the decade, but it’s not far from the bottom of the list.
Leave a Reply