Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Lestat: The Musical

Yesterday I went to go see Lestat and so I have decided to write a review. Don't read if you don't want to know about it. :)

The Best Worst Play I Have Ever Seen

I had heard very mixed reviews about this play going into it, so I really did not know what to expect. I knew that I loved the work of Dave McKean who was in charge of visual concept design, so I figured it would at least look pretty. And it did. Really pretty. I loved the sets... the costumes... the projected visuals (for the most part). But I have to admit that the acting pretty much sucked. Not all of it... but almost all of it.

Hugh Panaro as Lestat was pretty much insulting almost all the way through Act I. His delivery of dialog was stiff and unimaginative. While he does have a talented singing voice, it is unfortunate that they really didn't give him much that was worth singing. Unfortunately this was a theme throughout the show. All in all this play had really little to no business being a musical. Or if it had to be a musical then it would have benefited from actually having good music. But it didn't. Oh, boy it didn't. The music by Elton John was passable at best, while the lyrics by Bernie Taupin were mostly terrible. (Pet peeve here... when writing a musical it is not necessary that every piece of dialog need be sung... I don't want to hear you sing about how you are going to tell your story and let everybody know the truth, any more than I would want you to sing about how you were able to get all of your chores done that day and still have time for a quick bath.) But a good percentage of the lyrics in this play were just as mundane. Even this could have been forgiven, however, if the lyrics were poetic. But they weren't. Out of all of the songs, only two stick out in my head as good... and even both of them had problems. Carolee Carmello as Gabrielle was a surprise gem in this play, especially after coming across so boring and stiff in her introduction. Later on when she was made into a vampire she emerged a strong presence which culminated in her performance of "The Crimson Kiss" which in my opinion was the musical highlight of the whole show. It was really quite good... I was both shocked and pleased that suddenly so much talent was shining through. I actually got chills... the music, the lyrics and the performance were astounding. Too bad it occurred near the end of Act I... nothing for the rest of the play would equal its vigor.

Lestat, as I have known him from the books of Anne Rice, is a rather Luciferian character. He lives by his own rules and is certainly larger than life. He has a type of messianic presence that compels those around him to engage him on his terms. But little of this was present in this version. Instead Lestat is presented as somewhat of a whiner in Act I. While he does become more powerful and engaging later on in the play, in the beginning he has nothing of his awesome presence and those of us who know the character are left with the feeling that our beloved vampire-to-be has been emasculated even before his story begins. It's like Lestat-lite... now with 10% less interest.

Claudia was played by the talented Allison Fischer, who's performance was both strong and believable. When she sang "I Want More" it was another surprising high point for the show, although I felt that the song went on for much too long considering that it changed very little, both musically and lyrically.

At this point you are probably thinking that I hated this play... but you would be wrong. I did enjoy it... or at least parts of it. The overall story is one that I love and so it was certainly entertaining to see it played out before my eyes live... but I was disappointed in its overall execution. Especially for something that is being so obviously hyped and with some big names attached to it, I really expected more. I'd like to say that they should tweak it before it gets to Broadway, but honestly it needs more than just tweaking. Pretty much a whole new cast would be in order (you need people who can both sing and act!) and I believe that they rely much to heavily on the projected images which form a massive percentage of the set design. (For example... whenever a vampire drinks, images are projected upon the screen which depict the memories and experiences of the victim's life... while interesting, the play would have benefited from the addition of the ensemble acting or dancing interpretively in the background... otherwise it quickly degenerates into a gimmick, that while interesting and even compelling the first time, becomes stale quickly.

So... if you have an extra $160 lying around burning a hole in your pocket and it's either this play or a new pair of shoes, I'd think long and hard about your choice. My ticket was fortunately a gift, so I was able to relax and enjoy myself. If I had shelled out the money myself I would either have been very upset, or would have had to force myself into believing that I loved the show just to save face.


slagkick said...

I was actually talking with my friends about this today!
I aas about to ask if there was at least some homoerotic subtext going on between Lestat and Louis, but then I realized I had the wrong story :\

feri_hearted said...

I saw the flyer to this and read a few reviews and the thing that has bothered me was how old Claudia was. Wasn't she about 5 when she was made?

happydog said...

Oh, sounds like a good thing this was a gift, as you said. This sounds like a shark-jumping moment for everyone concerned.
I love this from the Official Website: "Lestat tries to reconcile his innate sense of good with his primal need to exist."
Wha? Which Lestat is this? Whinging about "innate senses of good" is Louis's department!

faerywolf said...

Well... this story wasn't based just only on her book "The Vampire Lestat". It was actually based on the Vampire Chronicles, so yes... there was homoerotic subtext between Louis and Lestat. The story in the play begins with Lestat (as from his book, more or less) and continues an through "Interview with the Vampire". Actually when Louis and Lestat were together (with Claudia) it was some of the best parts of the play. I actually found those parts enjoyable. Too bad they didn't last very long. :(

faerywolf said...

I don't recall how old she was in the book... I think you are right. In the play she was supposed to be 10, and I think she pulled it off well.
Standing alone in the dark, Claudia is noticed by a passing woman, strolling through the night.
"Are you all alone?" the woman asked, "How old are you?"
Claudia responded with a face of stone, "Forty," she said.
The woman paused and then chuckled, "Oh what an adorable sense of humor you have..."

faerywolf said...

Yeah... it was weird. I mean, I did enjoy myself, so it wasn't all terrible. But yes... I had problems with the characterization as well... Lestat is arrogant and larger than life... I don't remember him struggling with his humanity... or if he did, then not quite like this.

miss_mellie_b said...

I went to see Lestat last Saturday afternoon, with my mom & sister. We've read all the books, which definitely helped understand parts of the play, but wasn't really necessary. I agree that most of the music was so-so, although I liked the "Crimson Kiss" and "There's Nothing Here." Claudia's song, "I Want More", made me think of Veruca Salt, which made me laugh out loud, which startled the people around me and I got some weird looks. For my show, the acting was alright. Hugh Pannero's voice was wonderful as was Carolee Carmello's. I was disappointed with the man that played Louis. He was a bit wooden. As for the visual effects, while they were stunning at times, they passed so quickly that I kept thinking if they had just limited the amount of visuals and held each frame a bit longer, it would have had more impact.
I know this is still a work in progress. I think I'd like to see it after it has been honed into a true Broadway show.

slagkick said...

Awww, yay for gay vampires :)

127fascination said...

Corteo may be a better choice for us if we are going to spend 160.
PS. Will be be my friend? Saw your post via Anaar's log. She got me hooked but it is not much fun if you don't have friends...

feri_hearted said...

It occurred to me that they might have had to jump her age up a bit and get an older actor to play her. Children of a certain age can not be on stage or at work after a certain hour, after what happened on the set of Twilight Zone the movie. The waif in Les Miserables always leaves the stage early and never comes out for the curtain call after the show.

faerywolf said...

Always happy to have new friends! :)

unibear said...

I also went to see this, I mostly agree with your assesment. I didn't like some of the ways they changed it and some of the actors were dry but overall it was ok. :)