This Could Become A World Hit
By Karlheinz Roschitz
October 6, 1997
Byline: Raimund Theater: Ovations for the world premiere of Polanski's "Dance
Of The Vampires"
From now on Vienna is a city of vampires. Roman Polanski and his team have made it
possible: the world premiere of the musical Dance Of The Vampires at the Raimund Theater
was greeted with cheers and standing ovations by an enraptured audience. What is more:
Polanski has proved himself once again to be a man of the theater with an extraordinary
feeling for young acting talent.
Go to see it and be stunned. And whatever you do, don't forget to take a couple of
cloves of garlic with you. For, according to ancient Transylvanian folklore, that is the
only thing that will fend off these bloodsuckers, when they sweep through the theater in
hordes, causing quiet shudders of horror among the audience.
Roman Polanski has applied his experience to turn his own cult film Dance Of The
Vampires, made in 1966/67, inside out for Vienna. Thanks to the librettist Michael Kunze,
the musical dramaturgy has a lot of bite. And even if some of the rhymes were probably a
lot more witty in English, the mixture of love and pain, humor and irony (and occasionally
a bit of profounder meaning) has succeeded here. Proof of this is the fact that a kind of
sympathy for the vampire Count von Krolock and his graveyard family horror among the
The composer, Jim Steinman has grasped the horror in a skillful manner: he has woven
the explosive rock music - increasing in the finale to a hammering disco orgy - with
sweetly sentimental melodies. Some numbers sound rather mundane, yet the audience still
enjoyed them. There was applause after every scene.
Polanski has found a magnificent stage designer in William Dudley. A seducer who makes
it easy for us to descend into the world of the fantastical: the dismal snowy landscape,
the dilapidated village pub and above all the huge horror palace with its bizarre halls -
gallery of ancestral portraits, library, bathroom, crypt - are a visual pleasure fro the
audience. Of the greatest perfection are Sue Blane's delightful vampire haute couture and
Hugh Vanstone's lighting design.
However, most importantly, Polanski - the "horror specialist" has a cast
which can stand comparison with its model in the film.
Steve Barton is a teeth-baring count who sweeps all common human qualities before him
with his vampire nature: greed. In doing so he proves himself to be smart, armed with the
charm of the unusual, like his gay son Herbert (NIK plays this role very delicately).
Georg Kranner is a magnificently ludicrous Professor Abronsius and makes one laugh
heartily, James Sbano plays a Jewish innkeeper Chagal with refreshing comedy, Torsten
Flach the limping, cross-eyed vampires' factotum Koukol, Anne Welte a buxom, voluptuous
Rebecca. However the real discovery is the young couple: Cornelia Zenz plays a Sarah of
girlish charm with great stage presence and a pretty voice; and Aris Sas plays Alfred,
Polanski's favorite film character, a likable but awkward fellow who proves with his
boyish charm that the path to (vampire) hell is paved with good intentions.