Suzi (k00kaburra) wrote,

Lestat! The Musical! Ought to be the punchline of a joke!

Last night's musical surprised me in that it wasn't as bad as it could have been. The actors were talented - all with excellent voices - but the material they had to work with was awful. The writers took great liberty with Anne Rice's original novels - Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat - but that was a necessity, for they had to cram 1,000 pages of text into approximately two and a half hours.

As I said, the actors did the best with what they had. Hugo Panero, the singer starring as Lestat, had a beautiful, clear voice that captured Lestat's emotions - although Panero's face didn't always follow. His face experienced neither happiness nor sorrow, just varying degrees of concentration as he sang. Drew Sarich, the understudy for Armand who became the main player when his predecessor was dismissed, had a plain face and his speaking voice was nothing special. But when he sang! It was fantastic; he would have been amazing to watch with some decent material. Louis greatly disappointed me; Jim Stanch neither looked nor sounded anything like the Louis I found in the pages of the book. The two female leads, Gabrielle and Claudia, did a wonderful job as well. Carolee Carmello, as Gabrielle, was able to switch herself from a dying old woman to a vibrant hippie vamp-out-of-hell. Allison Fischer also did a great job as the doomed Claudia. Neither woman had great songs, although Claudia's "I Want More" was sufficiently humorous, but their enthusiasm and energy that they threw into their roles brought life to the script. Roderick Hill, as forgettable Nicolas (seriously, does anyone remember him from the book? I didn't) serves little purpose save to stand by Panero awkwardly as the two men contemplate just how homoerotic their relationship is.

But the strength of the actors could not bolster the weakness of the show. Lines meant to be serious were met with giggle. Jokes were greeted by dead air. The songs of the first act dragged and were indistinguishable from each other; the second act was too divergent, as if groping at any trick to keep the audience's attention. One song called "The New World" was just AWFUL - it was an attempt at a chorus song but it was so stiff and ill fitted to the musical - not to mention it was just a ridiculous piece of tripe in itself, with no point and no purpose. Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge" would have made more sense in the musical than "Sail Away," a song that existed solely to showcase Lestat sitting on the bow of a sunken ship. Nice enough song - a bit dull, but it's the sort of the Elton John produces for his singles these days - but completely out of context!
The writing was simplistic and childish, with not a clever lyric in the libretto, and the music was not majestic enough to allow forgiveness for this failing. It was as if Elton John was trying to imitate Webber's bombastic melodies, but fell victim again and again to his pop-music roots.

Costumes? Mediocre, but sufficient. They weren't particularly period accurate, but we can blame that on the fact that vampires live outside time. They looked like the costumes of a regional production, not a Broadway show.
Set? Hmmm. Occasionally they splurged on real, 3-D pieces of furniture but most of the backdrops were cast onto a giant screen. At times it would have text narrated by Lestat to segway between scenes, an awkward and clunky device that did little for the production. At other times the screens would have images of forests, or castle rooms – wherever Lestat happened to be. Every time a vampire bit into his victim, the screens would flash random images, a PhotoShop holocaust, with animations that looked like final projects turned in by students at the Academy of Arts across the street from the theatre. Meant to reveal the shared thoughts of predator and prey, it was a terribly ineffective device that I'm not quite sure they can compensate. Fires were also portrayed on the screen, saving a fortune in pyrotechnics but giving the production a sterility that could not be overcome by the flailing of an actor's limbs. Without the sense of heat and danger, the flames were useless; what terrified a vampire was the same bombastic animated flames one sees on hamburger commercials.

It could do well on Broadway – on a slow year the show has enough flash and spectacle to draw in the curious. But it is not to be a classic and I doubt it will even cause a ripple in the memories of theatre fans. Addison DeWitt would surely scoff at it, and rip it to shreds in a scathing, venomous review. I bear it no such malice, but I do not anticipate a success. It was hard to find it laughable because everyone was just trying so damn hard to make it work, but they couldn't overcome the massive flaws.
So much potential, wasted.

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