Lestat is wicked. "Lestat" is no "Wicked."
Carole Shorenstein Hays has established a San Francisco pre-Broadway
tryout routine, serving both coasts well, from 1979 on. The last
export-import production was Stephen Schwartz's remarkably pleasant
"Wicked." The current item, opening tonight in the Curran, is Elton
John's "Lestat," based on Anne Rice's "The Vampire Chronicles." It is
heading for Broadway, ready or not.
Mostly it's not, and never will be... but keep in mind that this is the
world in which "Cats" and "Phantom of the Opera" vie for "most successful
musical," each with over 7,400 performances. Maybe "Lestat" rolls up a
few thousand shows itself.
The idea of enacting - and singing - Rice's story is preposterous...
a pretty good word for this production. In the mind's theater, it may
work to kill packs of wolves, turn into a vampire, suck the blood out
of your mother (because she *asked* for it), and become hunted by the
other vampires. But on the stage of the Curran, the first scene placing
Lestat (Hugh Panaro) in a contemporary big-city environment, where he
starts writing his story on a laptop, just doesn't have the same resonance
as thinking Gothic thoughts.
Just how many times can you maintain dramatic tension by jumping on the
actor next to you, wrestling him or her to the ground, threshing about,
and doing the de-blooding thing? I maintained keen interest for four
rounds, but after that...
Perhaps even more importantly, there is the music. Or, rather, there
isn't. Not even in this accursed world of Andrew Lloyd Webber will you
hear anything so pathetically feeble. It's all little ditties in the
A-B-A-B-C mold or A-B-C-B-A or, heaven help those shelling out $230 a
pop, ABBA. Except for a couple of numbers (involving Carolee Carmello,
the Mother/Gabrielle), there is no passion, fire or anything corpuscular.
The gently rolling elevator music at times has an inexplicable resemblance
to the main theme in Kodaly's "Peacock Variations," but the connection
might have been made when I turned semicomatose.
Derek McLane's production is impressive. Strong, even if it cannot help
reflect the whole thing's silliness. There is even a huge three-dimensional
(and totally irrelevant) head on stage right, which becomes a projection,
and then disappears: neat! McLane, who presents some dramatic stage
pictures that would be well at home in a major opera house, studied with
Ming Cho Lee at Yale, and it shows. Perhaps not in the $200+ range
(check that out, at http://tinyurl.com/dyk2f), but McLane's work and
some of Susan Hilferty's costumes make attendance worthwhile. And, yes,
you can then leave, whistling the sets.