Bad Reviews are So Fun To Read

One of my favorite books at home is Opening Night on Broadway: A Critical Quotebook of the Golden Era of the Musical Theatre from Showboat to Oklahoma! and it’s sequel, More Opening Nights on Broadway: A Critical Quotebook of the Musical Theatre from 1965 Through 1981. This is a collection of first-night reviews of Broadway shows… and the reviews of the flops are much more entertaining than the reviews of the hits.

What brought this to mind was todays’ review in the New York Times of Lestat, the musicalization of the Anne Rice vampire stories by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Here is the first paragraph of the review, which is a masterpiece:

A promising new contender has arrived in a crowded pharmaceutical field. Joining the ranks of Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata and other prescription lullaby drugs is “Lestat,” the musical sleeping pill that opened last night at the Palace Theater.

Other worthy quotes:

…this portrait of blood suckers in existential crisis gives resounding credence to the legend that vampires are masters of hypnosis. Dare to look upon “Lestat” and keep your eyelids from growing heavier and heavier and heavier.

And consider Lestat’s relationships with his disapproving father (hates him) and his doting mother (loves, loves, loves her). He so adores his mom, a marquise (played by the ever-game power balladeer Carolee Carmello), that he makes her a vampire too, giving her a chance to dress up like one of the boys, join the hunt and become the undead’s answer to Auntie Mame.

The Washington Post isn’t much better:

I’m not sure how to put this, but, well, the fixation with singing vampires? It has to stop. I mean, give the bloodsucker a ballad, and it’s his show that joins the walking dead. First, in 2002, came the campy, short-lived “Dance of the Vampires,” with the Transylvanian townfolk lending their voices to a musical salute to garlic. Then two years later, “Dracula, the Musical” opened its casket to reveal a count whose killing spree entailed boring his victims into submission. And now, dearest Broadway, “Lestat.” Oh, “Lestat,” “Lestat,” “Lestat”! The show that could break the spell! The one that might finally take this sorry trend and drive a stake through its heart.

The only thing distinguishing this musical from its late, unlamented predecessors is that the lead vampires play for the, er, other team. In other words, “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.

More shocking than the feasting on blood — which is accompanied in “Lestat” by spooky video effects that glow the color of tangerines — are the lyrics that Bernie Taupin has affixed to Elton John’s somber pop melodies. “How luminous he looks to me/So radiant and glorious,” Lestat (Hugh Panaro) sings, while ogling his beloved, the doomed Nicolas (Roderick Hill). “One savage kiss is all he needs/To change his life and make this night victorious.” Need I explain?/You feel the pain/With lyrics this laborious.

Based on these reviews, we may have another Carrie: The Musical on our hands. Worse… it could be Jeckyll and Hyde, and actually thrive on Broadway. Actually, I shouldn’t pick on J&H, as I do enjoy Scarlet Pimpernel, by the same folks as J&H.