An afternoon at the theater
This afternoon I went, as promised, to see the new musical Lestat that’s being previewed here before heading off to Broadway. The crowd was comprised of your standard fare of musical theater goers from young couples to hordes of blue haired ladies. Not the goth fan-girl outing I was half-expecting. And it seemed to be a sold out performance as well which was a little surprising.

The staging is a little strange since they use a mix of regular sets and small movies projected onto pieces of the set. All in all it was an interesting concept that fell pretty flat and outright laughable at times and was passable at others. The sets themselves, although minimalist were what you would expect from this caliber of show which means they were very well done indeed.

The first act opened with Lestat introducing that he’s actually re-telling his story just like in the book but he was alone with his trusty Apple Power book. No Christian Slater in this version. At least Vampires know that Mac’s are the shiznit. It then flashes back to his origins and the show starts to follow him through the familiar Lestat story. I honestly can’t recall the first two songs because I was enthralled with the amount of spit that Lestat (Hugh Panero) was spewing as he sang and even talked. It’s hard to take anything seriously when the star has a huge gob of drool running down his chin. I shit you not. All I could think about was “why doesn’t he wipe his damn face?”. The guy in front of me mentioned to his friend at intermission that the screen over the orchestra was there just to keep the all spit off of them. In all fairness everyone does it when they’re singing and I was in the second row so it was really pronounced but this guy was a spit spraying machine.

The dialogue was horribly clumsy at points and just didn’t really flow at all. I found myself trying not to laugh out loud at points because it was all just so damn silly. As far as the music went it was done completely and utterly wrong. Never once did I give a rats ass about any of the feelings of the characters because they were engulfed in this prozac pansy jingle land that wasn’t in the least bit dark or disturbing or compelling. These are KILLERS we’re seeing on stage and there are songs you’d think were straight out of the Lion King. They picked the wrong team to score this. Period. In the first act there isn’t one single song that stayed with me. I was contemplating leaving at the intermission because traditionally the first act has all the good stuff. I decided to stick it out for you, my faithful readers. Oh and the fact that the ticket cost $100 was pretty good motivation too.

I was pleasantly surprised by the second act. There were 2 songs that, albeit don’t remotely belong in a Vampire musical were quite good. Claudia’s (Allison Fischer) big number, “I Want More” was the only memorable song from the whole thing. Lestat had a great song near the end but it too would have been better placed in another story.

Now we get to the performances. There was not one bad actor or singer on that stage today. They were all world class and I’d go see any of them again in anything but this. Seriously, amazing work all around. Bravo!

I keep going back to why in the hell would they turn this into a musical? It never really was a fit in my mind and after sitting through 2 and a half hours of it it bordered on parody. My final assessment is that if you didn’t speak english it would have been much more entertaining but the clumsy dialog and just ridiculous juxtaposition of the wrong music with a story-line about Vampires doesn’t work. All in all I’d give it 2 out of 5. With that said it’ll probably be a huge hit and make zillions of dollars but my advice is to skip it and just rent the movie.

7 Comments so far

  1. gnlee (unregistered) on January 1st, 2006 @ 12:32 pm

    Thank you for mentioning the spit spewing! I’ve read numerous blogs and reviews (both good and bad) but haven’t seen anyone mention Hugh’s spit! It kept us giggling throughout what was mostly a very dull show.
    All in all a bad show. Some good acting but the script is so bad it’s hard to tell…
    Skip this one is my advice!

  2. cd (unregistered) on January 1st, 2006 @ 1:27 pm

    So, then, “Once more with feeling” is still the best vampire musical ever?

    Buffy has that shit covered – why try to compete?

  3. Cari (unregistered) on January 1st, 2006 @ 2:55 pm

    I have seen several comments about the spitting thing in various reviews. My husband and I were enthralled by it- by far the most interesting part of the show!!

    As for the show itself….I really thought Hugh Panero was hideously overacting. I was shocked at how bad he was- made me want to laugh at the most “dramatic” moments. In my oh-so-humble opinion, he was the worst actor on stage!

    Bear in mind that I went into this not having read a single review- I like to make up my own mind. I am a big fan of Elton John and I LOVED the books (before they were made into movies!). In theory, I was primed to like this show!

    I will agree that the highlight (musically) was “I want more”. Allison did a marvelous job with the charactor. The rest of the songs were boring- I actually caught myself falling asleep more than once!

    All in all, my husband and I took from this show “It sucks to be a Vampire”.

  4. charles (unregistered) on January 2nd, 2006 @ 11:30 am

    Thank you..for the critiqueing of Lestat above
    I was thinking about getting a single ticket to the show,as I too have read all of the books and am a fan of Ms.Rice..and Sir Elton John, but thanks to the reviews above about the spit and the bad songs..I will save the money and see how it does on Broadway..I am thinking flop right now…and wait and see if it comes back revised,better. I loved Aida..I wonder what happened here? Perhaps Mr.John has spent too much time on his marriage planning and other activities instead of his show and spread himself too thin,or not enough money invested and spent wisely..on material for song research of the period,sets,etc. It is a shame all of that talent.

  5. LCGIII (unregistered) on January 15th, 2006 @ 7:43 pm

    My wife and I just saw the first half of Lestat –and decided to leave at intermission so as not to disrupt the “musical” with our laughter. In 20 years of viewing movies and theater, this is only the second time I’ve ever walked out of a production midway through it.

    Unfortunately, we did not check reviews prior to buying tickets. Given the material (Anne Rice) and the musician (Elton John), we presumed it would be at least enjoyable or interesting….neither of which can be said to be true. The “musical” failed in every possible way. The dialog was slow, poorly written and stilted, the excruciating equivalent of being forced to listen to a dramatic reading of Hallmark cards. When we gave up on the dialog (in the first 5 minutes), we shifted our attention to the music, both hoping for a strong musical score consistent with Elton John’s work in Lion King, where the songs matched the context and feel of the story. What we least expected and were shocked to hear (resulting in the only dramatic moment we experienced throughout) was virtually a repeat of the Lion King’s music, filled with a strange jumble of lyrics, and, while appropriate for an audience of children, hardly appropriate to be sung by the undead!

    The stage “production” consisted of a heavy reliance on projected images and rudimentary lighting techniques, which one would only find entertaining if on hallucinogens, and even then, would likely find them more laughable than scary. Perhaps this was indicative of a low budget, which would also explain why some of the costumes appeared to be made from Motel 6 bedspreads and window dressings.

    To their credit, the actors tried to make something of this, yet they too appeared bored with the script and the songs, and clearly knew the material was very weak. Even with their talent, only a miracle can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

    In sum, I am appalled that the production company is charging the amount of the money they are for the tickets. This is irresponsible and bordering on fraud. If anything, this is an effort by Warner Brothers production to get people to stay away from the live theater and back into movie theaters.

    This will never make it to Broadway, nor should it. Save your money – and don’t give life to what should be dead. Though Lestat may bemoan his interminable existence, we can put his musical out of its misery.

  6. Jason D- (unregistered) on January 15th, 2006 @ 7:46 pm

    Well said!

  7. michael (unregistered) on January 28th, 2006 @ 8:02 pm

    To sum it up, if Andrew Lloyd Weber had a bowel movement while reading an Anne Rice novel, you would have Lestat.

    Awful, bloody awful. I do mean bloody. We three went to the movie theatre, only two returned. The third exited during intermission, which was spent vomiting in the men’s room. No joke.

    Well, tonight Josh,Linda, and myself saw “Lestat, the Musical” Curran Theatre as part of the Best of Broadway in San Francisco series

    (Sally Struthers mode on). Please, don’t do what we did. Don’t by tickets. Don’t see this musical. WHY DOESN’T ANYBODY THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN!?!?!?(Sally Struthers mode off).

    My approbation:

    Fixed-media special effects were the highlight of Lestat. They were very well conceived, and very competently executed, with only one noticeable missed queue. Highly emotional scenes, usually around blood consumption or the spawning/forking of new vampires, were highlighted by very large projected effects. The best, though they had some sort of a malfunction, was with the dropping of a curtain in front of a character about to be set on fire, to project an image of her writhing in flames.. If they had waited 5 more seconds, this effect would have been wonderful.

    Set design deserves much credit. Their attention to detail fell upon appreciative eyes. From the back row, for example, on an enlarged glass door, I could clearly make out the reflection of comparatively smaller actors.

    The best singer, whose name I only remember as being Nicole from the playbill, only sang about three lines. The actor playing Marius, though I’m sure “in the know” Anne Rice fans would disagree, was funny, and the only actor worth watching.

    My criticism:

    Our endurance of this musical’s entirety. Apparently the score was written by Sir Elton John. Sir Elton John, the poor man, has apparently become tone deaf, and lacking in new ideas. On at least one occasion, he resorted to mashing up a Bob Denver song in a thinly veiled attempt to create “music”. The seats are uncomfortable and cramped. The cheap seats were all sold out, but no seat moving was allowed, even though 1/2 of the theatre was empty.

    I cannot even comment on the rest of the musical, as it was so bad that I must now go listen to white noise at 130decibels for 20 hours, in order to plague the memory of this evening’s aural and visual torture.

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