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The Worst Broadway Show Ever Made

An analysis of why Dance of the Vampires became known as the worst play ever made

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Dance of the Vampires: The Worst Show to Come to Broadway

The musical Dance of the Vampires actually started out as a great show in Europe, but its shipment overseas can best be described as botched. In its original incarnation, the show was named Tanz der Vampire, and was a beautiful and witty Austrian play based off the movie “The Fearless Vampire Killers” by Roman Polanski. The original show was a brilliant deconstruction and commentary on the Vampire genre, and became an instant hit in Europe, with over 20 well-received revivals across the world, and translated into 10 different languages.

Michael Crawford Chosen as Head Vampire

American producers saw the success of the original show, and thought it would be a great idea to bring the show to Broadway. This is where all the problems began. The biggest issue with Dance of the Vampires lied with the cast. Michael Crawford was offered the supporting role of Count von Krolock after the original choice for the role died. This decision seemed like a great idea at the time, as Crawford's return to Broadway was heavily anticipated, but may have lead to the downfall of the show. Crawford, who is best known for his role as The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, wanted complete creative control over the character of Krolock and a ridiculous paycheck. Due to the similarities between Phantom and Vampires (albeit coincidental) and his very obvious weight gain since the 80’s, Crawford drastically changed the costumes and accent of the character. Critics said he looked like “a fat rooster”.

Music Lost in Translation

Jim Steinman originally provided the music, which worked wonderfully for German audiences, but left American audiences puzzled. Steinman recycled some of his hits in the original Austrian production, most notably the song “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (which became “Totale Finsternis”). To German listeners, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was unrecognizable because the song was never a hit in German-speaking countries, but American audiences knew the wildly popular song from the first note. However, audiences were confused because the lyrics were completely changed, and a pop-hit did not fit with the dark atmosphere of that scene. In recordings of the original Broadway production, laughter can be heard during "Total Eclipse", which was originally supposed to be a touching, serious moment. Producers changed some of the operatic songs to include spoken word, which was an odd decision, to say the least.

Dancing Out of Broadway

After all the changes made to the original show, Dance of the Vampires essentially became two completely separate shows in one production. One show was campy and in the vein of Rocky Horror, and the other show was dark and serious, which led to an incoherent mess of a show with a tone problem. The production was so far removed from the original show, Jim Steinman reportedly refused to see the opening. The show ended up losing $12 million. The original production of Dance of the Vampires that was not butchered still lives on, and can be seen in cities across Europe.