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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Vampire' Dances Into Dullsville

VIENNA, Austria -- The blood looked real -- and could even be drunk in the form of strawberry liqueur before the show. The eerie lighting and vampires on the stairs at the post-premiere party in Vienna's neo-Gothic City Hall were magnificent.


In between was the world premiere of "Dance of the Vampires," Roman Polanski's three-hour musical version of his own 1960s vampire film pastiche.


The show Saturday night at Vienna's Raimund theater had all the attributes of grand spectacle -- the sets and lighting were splendid, the costumes elaborate, the singers and dancers numerous and the music loud.


But, particularly in Act 1, the action dragged, bogged down by a score overly reliant on loud piano and repetitive orchestration, and by a German-language text in rhyming couplets that was sometimes strained, at other times superficial.


Rock composer Jim Steinman wrote the music, weaving in his Meat Loaf hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart" as the signature tune for the gullible heroine, Sarah, who gives herself up to the vampire Count von Krolock.


German lyricist Michael Kunze did the book, which often resembled what he delivered for another Vienna world musical premiere, "Elisabeth," based on the life of Empress Sissy, the unhappy wife of Austria's Habsburg emperor Franz Josef II.


Critics ripped Kunze for that musical, but it proved a success with Vienna audiences and the hordes of tourists who visit the city. With breaks, it has played for six years, and is still running.


"Dance of the Vampires" could well experience the same fate. Many in the premiere audience were unhappy with the performance, but acknowledged that it has the elements of a theatrical extravaganza that will probably make it popular.


The three months of rehearsal on the musical were surrounded by constant rumors of crisis. Kunze, in an interview published Saturday in the daily Der Standard, denied there was ever a threat of breaking off the production. But, he said, "There were crises and moments when you said, 'O.K., up to this point and no further!'"


"Polanski is a type who doesn't scream and yell. At some point, he just doesn't want to discuss any more. And so -- if he didn't want a certain scene, it just wasn't there."