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Lestat opens on Broadway—to harsh reviews

Lestat opens on Broadway—to harsh reviews

The third vampire musical to try its luck on Broadway in four years drew all the familiar puns in scathing reviews Thursday that said Lestat was "bloody awful," "sucked of life," and the "kiss of death." Lestat was Hollywood studio Warner Bros.' first attempt to challenge Disney's dominance of the mass-market musical genre, reportedly with a budget of up to $12 million. Based on Anne Rice's vampire novels, the show features songs by Elton John and his writing partner, Bernie Taupin.

Expectations had been low after a critically savaged trial run in San Francisco. History was also against Lestat after the failure of two previous vampire musicals, Dance of the Vampires in 2002 and Dracula, the Musical in 2004.

In a review headlined "Vampires, the Musical Kiss of Death," The Washington Post's Peter Marks said the fixation with singing vampires had to stop. "Give the bloodsucker a ballad, and it's his show that joins the walking dead.... The only thing distinguishing this musical from its late, unlamented predecessors is that the lead vampires play for the, er, other team," he said. "Lestat's contribution to art and equality is demonstrating that a gay vampire with a two-octave range can be just as dull as a straight one." The New York Post's verdict was "Bloody Awful," and the Newark, N.J.'s Star-Ledger said it was "just deadly."

The plot, from Rice's Vampire Chronicles books, follows the 18th century Frenchman Lestat, who is bitten by a vampire after slaughtering a pack of wolves. The books were made into a hit film starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in 1994. Lestat's dying mother convinces him to bite her so she can live forever. His relationship with his childhood friend Nicholas ends in tragedy, and he does little better in New Orleans with his next companion, Louis.

Describing Lestat as a "musical sleeping pill," The New York Times critic Ben Brantley said: "The closest Lestat comes to so-bad-it's-good camp is in a subplot that might be called Claudia Has Two Daddies. Claudia is the little orphan girl brought home as a peace offering to the sulking Louis by Lestat, who turns her into a vampire after finding her destitute on the streets of New Orleans."

In a review headlined "Undead Lestat sucked of life," Newsday's Linda Winer said: "The undead can't catch a break on Broadway these days.... The curse continues with Lestat."

In a sign of the power of bad reviews, the producers of another high-profile production, the Johnny Cash musical Ring of Fire, which opened in March to dismal notices, announced on Thursday it would close on April 30. Bad reviews don't always spell doom, particularly for a show aimed at tourists rather than elitist New Yorkers, but USA Today's Elysa Gardner said the gay vampire musical may have trouble appealing to an audience seeking mainstream family entertainment. "There's no love like a mother's love, especially if your mom happens to be a vampire. Unless, that is, you have two fathers among the living dead," Gardner wrote. "Those are just a couple of the twists on family values that threaten to make Lestat...the religious right's worst nightmare." (Claudia Parsons, Reuters)

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