Call him the Phantom of the Rumania. Michael Crawford, of Phantom of the Opera fame, is now confirmed to play an aristocratic nosferatu in Dance of the Vampires, a Vienna hit that will reach Broadway's Minskoff Theatre in March and open April 11.
According to the London Sunday Times, Crawford, 59, would be paid nearly 20 million pounds to do the show, making him "the world's highest-paid theatre star." Composer Jim Steinman called Crawford "a towering talent... He would be worth every cent we can pay him."
Crawford will play Count Von Krolock, a role that a Back Stage casting notice says requires a "male, any ethnicity, to play anywhere from 30 to 50 to 425 years old, the show's vampire, the seductive, diabolic, dramatic center of the show." Other roles, being cast in early September, include earnest hero Alfred; Herbert, the Count's "gay vampire son"; absent-minded Professor Abronsius; a Jewish inkeeper who's "almost a parody of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof"; and "busty lusty" Magda.
Back in October 1997, Austrian producer Andrew Braunsberg told the New York Times he was hoping to bring the spoofy tuner to Broadway the following season. That never happened, in part because the show's director, Roman Polanski, fled the U.S. in 1977 rather than stand trial on a statutory rape charge (a charge that he has, from the start, denied). Little changed on that score, though media sources reported that Hollywood notables and executives were working behind the scenes to convince the Los Angeles District Attorney's office to allow Polanski back into the U.S. Braunsberg told the Daily News in February 2000 that would allow him to bring Dance of the Vampires to Broadway by the end of that year, with Polanski to direct.
Instead, John Caird (Jane Eyre) will co-direct with composer Steinman, with Daniel Ezralow choreographing and Michael Reed serving as music supervisor and Patrick Vaccariello as musical director. Braunsberg is coproducing with David Sonenberg, who told Variety (Aug. 23) that the $10 million musical will not have a regional try out. Rehearsals start in January 2002 for previews beginning roughly March 5 and an opening on or about April 11. Dance of the Vampires, an adaptation of Polanski's 1967 film horror spoof, "The Fearless Vampire Killers" (which was originally titled "Dance with the Vampires"), has music by Steinman (Whistle Down the Wind, the upcoming Batman), with book and lyrics by Michael Kunze, further adapted for the Broadway version by comedic playwright David Ives. The former has translated numerous Broadway musicals into German, as well as penning the book and lyrics for the European tuners Elisabeth and Mozart!. The latter, author of All in the Timing and The Red Address, is also working on Batman. Ives' agent at Writers and Artists confirmed (Aug. 23) that the dramatist had been "working on the show for several months" and that it would open, with Crawford, at the Minskoff.
Dance of the Vampires premiered October 1997 at Vienna's 1,215 seat Raimund Theatre and ran through January 2000. (Directed by Polanski and produced by the Stella company, a copy of the Vienna production is currently running in Stuttgart.) Budgeted at $7 million (U.S.), the show won six German IMAGE Awards the following year, including Best Musical, Best Music, Best Book, Best Actor, and Best Featured Actor and Actress.
A source in the marketing department at Holland's Theater de Maaspoort Venlo informed Playbill On Line that according to the German magazine "musicals," workshops of Dance of the Vampires were held in New York in April and May at the Chelsea Studios. Featured were the late Steve Barton as Count von Krolock, alongside William Youmans, Tom Alan Robbins, Bertilla Baker, Sarah Uriarte, Kate Shindle, Jason Wooten and Urinetown's Ken Jennings. Reportedly, the show is being heavily reworked for Broadway. Crawford's manager, Mort Viner, told Variety that the actor would not be treading on familiar macabre turf by playing a vampire after playing a phantom. "Vampires will be a totally different performance because of the comedy."
Polanski's last theatre directing stint came in November 1999, when he staged a new Italian production of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus at Piacenza's Teatro Comunale. Actor Crawford's last stage work was in the Vegas "FX" show. Prior to his Broadway success, the actor won an Olivier for the London mounting of Barnum and also had featured roles in the films "Hello, Dolly!" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," both based on stage shows. In his latest disk, "The Disney Albums," Crawford tackles various Mousterpieces, most from the post "Little Mermaid" era.
Director Caird (Les Miserables) told the Sunday Times that Vampires would reach Broadway first and then head to Los Angeles and the West End.