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Will revamped Lestat click with theatre-buffs..

Can a musical about vampires rise from the grave after reviewers called it lifeless?

india Updated: Feb 04, 2006 17:34 IST

Can a musical about vampires with music by Elton John rise from the dead after reviewers called it lifeless, dreary and dull and did their best to drive wooden stakes through its heart?

That's the problem facing Lestat, a Broadway-bound musical based on Anne Rice's best-selling The Vampire Chronicles, which just finished a six-week run in San Francisco, grossing $4.3 million but at the expense of those life-threatening reviews.

The producers of Lestat are revamping the show and hope that a newly hired creative consultant can revive it. They have pushed its New York opening back from April 13 to April 25 with previews beginning March 25.

The San Francisco Chronicle called the musical "didactic, disjointed, oddly miscast, confusingly designed and floundering in an almost unrelenting saccharine score by Elton John."

Many theatre-goers said they wished they had stayed home and predicted the play would need a major overhaul to find success on Broadway.

"I would have left at intermission as did many in our row and section," a woman said in an online message board. "The staging was lifeless and the projections of fire and destruction boring."

To breathe life into the play, the producers, Warner Bros, Theatre Ventures, tapped Jonathan Butterell to join as a creative consultant as the musical undergoes revisions. Butterell's Broadway credits include The Light in the Piazza and the recent revival of Fiddler on the Roof.

Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures chief Gregg Maday acknowledged Lestat had problems but said it will be a whole new show when the curtain goes up in New York.

"We are really looking at the first act in particular but the whole play is under revamp," Maday said in a recent telephone interview. "The show as it was in San Francisco is not the one that will be in New York."

Lestat marks the inaugural production from the new Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures and pairs John with his long-time writing partner Bernie Taupin on a Broadway score for the first time.

John has had Broadway hits with Disney's Tony Award-winning The Lion King and Aida but vampires are proving to be a tougher challenge as the show's creators look to capitalise on the popularity of Rice's novels, which have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide.

The Vampire Chronicles books tell the stories of the vampires Louis and Lestat whose wanderings from France to New Orleans eventually lead to rock 'n' roll stardom.

Maday said reading the rough reviews was no fun but added they will help make for a better show. He said it was common for a productions to make big changes after a trial run and that so far sales were brisk for shows in New York.

Maday said along with potential new songs, the New York version will narrow its scope and condense plots to address a show theater-goers and critics called "vague and bloated" with a hard-to-follow storyline.

"Here is what we took away," Maday said. "The play tried to do a lot. It tried to take a lot of themes and a lot of plots from the book and infuse a lot of intellctual ideas in the storytelling. We realised there was too much confusion."

First Published: Feb 04, 2006 17:34 IST