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Epic, gothic, sexy–and frighteningly funny: in VBW’s musical adaptation, Roman Polanski’s Sixties cult movie hits the live stage, driven by a magnificent rock score, lavish set design and dazzling choreography.
When The Fearless Vampire Killers, the flamboyantly funny parody of the classic horror movie genre, directed by Roman Polanski and written by Gérard Brach and Roman Polanski, first hit the movie theaters in 1967, it became an instant cult success. Thirty years later, Polanski’s highly amusing take on the now so immensely popular vampire theme had lost nothing of its spooky appeal, so the idea was born in Vienna to create a musical version–with none other than Polanski himself directing the world premiere.
For this exceptional project, Roman Polanski was joined by some other creative legends in their own right: Germany’s foremost lyricist, author and librettist Michael Kunze wrote the book and world renowned rock composer and producer Jim Steinman, who created one of the best-selling albums in the history of recorded music with Bat out of Hell, agreed to write the music.
By masterfully combining these state-of-the-art ingredients, DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES turned out to be a success more than worthy of its fabled movie predecessor. Gothic horror combines with slapstick, drama, comedy, romance and a hefty dose of Rock ’n’ Roll ballads to make a hugely entertaining spectacle. Why is there so much garlic in the local inn’s taproom? Why does the innkeeper lock his beautiful daughter in her room at night? And who will win her love–the scarily seductive Count von Krolock, the powerful leader of the vampire pack, or his unequal opponent, the endearingly shy and anxious Alfred, assistant to the eccentric scientist and vampire hunter Professor Abronsius.
Stunning sets and ingenious video projections allow the audience to follow the chase into the snow-swept mountains of Transylvania and Count von Krolock’s creepy castle with its dusty library, spooky crypt and the sumptuous mirrored ballroom where–strangely–not everyone can see their own reflection. The show’s perfect blend of stirring rock ballads, offbeat comedy, dazzling choreography and lavish set design rapidly achieved cult status and is frenetically acclaimed by audiences and critics alike. A cult classic far ahead of its time, anticipating the now ubiquitous vampire boom in popular culture (Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.) by many years, DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES has its finger right on the audience’s pulse–or rather, their vein. Let the dance begin!
Success Story & Production Notes
Over 9.4 million tickets sold worldwide
Performances in 14 countries and 12 languages
A triumphant success for a truly spine-tingling spectacle
The original Viennese production, directed by international movie legend Roman Polanski himself, premiered in October 1997 at the Raimund Theater in Vienna–a lavish production featuring sophisticated set design by Olivier Award recipient William Dudley and sumptuous costume design by Sue Blane (THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW)–and closed in January 2000.
From Vienna the vampires went on to conquer Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany (Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Oberhausen, Stuttgart), Hungary, Japan, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Switzerland and the USA (Broadway–albeit in a revised version).
A truly spectacular success which brought the show back to Vienna in September 2009: after traveling the world for twelve years, the vampires finally made a triumphant return to their birthplace. From 2009–2011 and again in 2017 for its 20th anniversary, fearless vampire hunter Professor Abronsius and his not-quite-so-fearless sidekick Alfred set out once more to much acclaim to hunt down the formidable Count von Krolock live on stage at Vienna’s fabulous Ronacher Theater.
Director was Cornelius Baltus, who had already supervised the show six times and was Polanski’s assistant in 1997. Sets and costumes are by Kentaur (painter, musician, set designer for operas and THE PRODUCERS, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, etc). Dennis Callahan (Broadway Choreographer, ELISABETH, MOZART!) reworked the dance sequences to Steinman’s pounding rhythms and rocking refrains.
"The show, directed by Polanski, is the sort of elaborate spectacle that is familiar to theatergoers on Broadway and in the West End of London."
"The bloodsucking will continue for a long time to come."
"To tell the truth the result marvels everyone."
"What happens on the stage (and the aisles in the auditorium) is arranged to perfection. The vampires will conquer the world."
"Every character is fascinating."
"Blood must flow. […] a really fabulous, often surprisingly effective show."
"Roman Polanski has just launched the best-ever German musical. The show has few equals in its genre."
Credits & Keyfacts
- World premiere:
1997 Austria / Vienna (Raimund Theater/VBW)
- Book & Lyrics:
- Music & additional material:
- Musical supervisor & Arrangements:
Steve Margoshes, Michael Reed (2009)
- Based on:
Turner Entertainment Co.’s motion picture The Fearless Vampire Killers, produced with the kind permission of Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures Inc. directed by Roman Polanski and written by Gérard Brach and Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski, Cornelius Baltus (2009, 2017)
- Set Design:
William Dudley (1997), Kentaur (2009, 2017)
- COSTUME DESIGN/MAKE-UP/MASKS/WIGS:
Sue Blane (1997), Kentaur (2009, 2017)
- Lighting Design:
- Sound Design:
Richard Ryan (1997), Matthias Reithofer (2009), Thomas Strebel (2017)
- Musical Director:
Adrian Werum (1997), Caspar Richter (2009), Koen Schoots (2017)
- Visitors worldwide:
over 8,9 million
- Shows worldwide:
14 (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Switzerland, USA)
- Language Versions:
Czech, Dutch/Flemish, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Slovak
Count von Krolok
Ancient Lord of the sinister vampire castle and powerful leader of the vampire pack. A truly awe-inspiring figure, tall, powerful, elegant, capable of great charm and self-restraint. He is also terrifying, maniacal and ruthless. He laments his own fate and the eternal hunger he can never satisfy.
An elderly scientist at the University of Königsberg and avid vampire hunter, rather eccentric and comical, but very energetic. Has boyish enthusiasm, an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and a passion for logic. He is often so wrapped up in his investigations that he fails to see what is happening around him.
Professor Abronsius’s clumsy assistant and Count von Krolock’s reluctant opponent. A shy and awkward young man, innocent and timid. He is torn between his desire to study and learn, his wish to stand by Abronsius and his love for Sarah.
Young and beautiful, she yearns for freedom, feeling that her house is a prison–which in fact it is, since her overprotective father boards up her bedroom every night. Out of sheer boredom she often takes luxurious bubble baths. She is fascinated by the vampire’s world where von Krolock tries to lure her, and her inquisitiveness and desire for freedom lead her to follow his call. Once in his castle she sets her heart on being queen of the ball despite Alfred’s warnings.
The local innkeeper and Sarah’s overprotective father. He is having an affair with Magda, the maid, which he continues even after they turn into vampires. As a vampire, he offers to lead Abronsius and Alfred to the castle to escape the fate of having a stake driven through his heart.
Chagal’s resolute wife. She prevents Abronsius from putting a stake through Chagal’s dead heart after he has been bitten by the vampires, thus triggering a fatal chain of events.
Chagal’s maid and secret lover. When Chagal turns into a vampire, she becomes his first victim.
Von Krolock’s son. An overtly homosexual vampire who is delighted to see Alfred, partly because he finds life at the castle rather dull. Makes amorous advances towards Alfred, but without success.
Von Krolock’s hunchbacked servant can only communicate in grunts. A truly classic horror movie character, in charge of guarding the entrance to the vampire’s crypt and desperately trying to instill some order into the vampire pack’s relentless chaos.
„Forever's gonna start tonight.“
A village in fear
Accompanied by his clumsy and timid assistant Alfred, the famous vampire expert Professor Abronsius, an authority at the University of Königsberg, has come to Transylvania. His aim is to find and destroy the vampires who, according to legend, are said to dwell in a mysterious castle in these parts of Romania. They find shelter from the bitterly cold night in a rundown inn owned by Chagal and his wife Rebecca. The inn positively bristles with garlic–a strong indication that there are vampires in the vicinity, which the villagers vehemently deny.
The bumbling Alfred falls head over heels in love with Sarah, the innkeeper’s beautiful daughter. Sarah hears the voice of the powerful vampire Count von Krolock telling her of another world, the idea of which fascinates her.
The Count has his eye on Sarah, too, and seduces her step by step. He has his hunchbacked servant Koukol tempt her with a gift of red boots. Before she opens the bundle containing the boots, Alfred confesses his love for her. Sarah likes him too, but her curiosity is stronger. She sends him away on a pretext and sets off alone to von Krolock’s castle. Chagal, alarmed, runs after her.
A visit to the castle
Chagal is brought into the inn; he appears to be dead and has bite marks on his neck. At night Magda, the maid, with whom he was having an affair, is mourning at his dead body. Chagal, however, is now a vampire–he awakens and bites her in the neck. Abronsius arrives, determined to put a stake through Chagal’s heart to keep him from turning into a vampire. Yet Abronsius has to realize that it is too late and spares the innkeeper so he can lead them to von Krolock’s castle.
At the castle, von Krolock affords the two men the warmest of welcomes. He introduces them to his overtly homosexual son, Herbert, who immediately takes a fancy to Alfred. The two investigators are offered lodgings for the night, which they gladly accept: the Professor so that he can continue his investigations, Alfred so that he can find Sarah.
The vampires awaken
Von Krolock struggles to control his desire to claim Sarah, because her initiation as a newborn vampire is not planned until the following evening at a ball at the castle. In the morning, Alfred and Abronsius head down to the crypt to drive a stake through the hearts of von Krolock and his son. Unfortunately, Abronsius gets himself caught on a balustrade, leaving Alfred to do the deed alone who, however, cannot bring himself to deliver the final blow. Instead, Abronsius and Alfred continue to search the castle, finally discovering von Krolock’s magnificent library. While Abronsius, an avid book lover, gets completely absorbed in the new discovery, Alfred suddenly hears a faint melody emanating from the dark.
Following the voice, he discovers the castle’s bathroom, where Sarah is singing in the bathtub. He begs her to flee with him, but she is eager to attend the ball planned at midnight and sends him away. Alfred, disheartened by Sarah’s refusal, is waylaid by Herbert, who tries to kiss him. A struggle ensues during which Alfred notices with amazement that Herbert has no reflection in the mirror. Abronsius and Alfred encounter von Krolock on the castle battlements.
Although they are getting closer to unlocking the mysteries of the castle, von Krolock mocks their puny efforts and the conflict escalates. The Count then disappears and the two men watch in horror as the vampires emerge from their tombs and swarm into the ballroom. Once they are out of sight, von Krolock appears and laments the insatiable hunger for real life that eternally plagues him, but being an undead vampire he will never be able to experience anything else.
Our heroes escape – or do they?
At the ball, Alfred and Abronsius manage to knock out two vampires and join the dance wearing their costumes. Von Krolock presents Sarah and promises the guests a special treat: the two scientists who are trapped in the castle!
The Count dances with Sarah and bites her willingly proffered throat. Alfred and Abronsius manage to make contact with her. She has lost a lot of blood but is not yet dead. As the dancing vampires approach the mirrored wall they notice the reflections of Alfred, Abronsius and Sarah. This gives them away, since only humans–and not vampires–have a visible reflection. Von Krolock orders the vampires to suck the humans dry, yet in the ensuing chaos they manage to escape by a hair’s breadth.
Outside under a starry sky the trio sinks down to rest. The lovers embrace. Engrossed in keeping a record of the events in his notebook, Abronsius fails to notice what is happening behind him, Sarah has bitten Alfred in the neck and is drinking his blood. The vampires have won. In a pulsating victory dance that has the audience on their feet, they celebrate their arrival in the here and now.