Lestat Will Land Later Than Expected at Broadway's Palace; Butterell Joins Team

News   Lestat Will Land Later Than Expected at Broadway's Palace; Butterell Joins Team Dates for the first preview and opening of the Broadway musical Lestat have been changed to accommodate continued work by the creative team, the producers said Feb. 2.

Hugh Panaro in Lestat.
Hugh Panaro in Lestat. Photo by Paul Kolnik

Previously announced to start March 11, the vampire-populated show by composer Elton John, lyricist Bernie Taupin and librettist Linda Woolverton will begin 8 PM March 25 at the Palace Theatre and open April 25. Opening was previously announced for April 13.

The producer, Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, run by executive vice president Gregg Maday, also confirmed Feb. 2 that Jonathan Butterell, who provided musical staging for Broadway's The Light in the Piazza and the recent Nine and Fiddler on the Roof revivals, has been brought onto the project as creative consultant "to provide an objective overview as it undergoes revisions."

Lestat reunites the legendary pop songwriting team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, who are collaborating together on a legit musical for the first time. The musical inspired by the characters of novelist Anne Rice ended its pre-Broadway tryout Jan. 29 after previews from Dec. 17, 2005, at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco.

Rehearsals and refinements will continue in New York City. The lush, shadowy, romantic world of the title vampire (played by Phantom of the Opera veteran Hugh Panaro) is directed by Robert Jess Roth, with musical staging by Matt West. Woolverton, West and Roth were on the creative team of Broadway's hit Beauty and the Beast.

The producers also announced Lestat (the inaugural production of Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures) grossed $4,315,293 at the Curran, breaking the San Francisco record for the highest-grossing world premiere there; the previous record holder was Wicked. Of course, the pre-Broadway San Fran run of Stephen Schwartz's Wicked ran five weeks there compared to Lestat's 6.5 weeks. Wicked has since become a Broadway smashzilla, spawning two other companies in North America. Lestat will be Elton John's third musical for Broadway following The Lion King and Aida. He also wrote songs for the smash London musical Billy Elliott, which has yet to be announced for a Broadway bow.

In addition to Hugh Panaro, the principal cast includes Carolee Carmello (Mamma Mia!, Parade) as Gabrielle, Drew Sarich as Armand, Jim Stanek as Louis, Roderick Hill as Nicolas, Michael Genet as Marius and Allison Fischer as Claudia. Lestat's cast of 16 features Rachel Coloff, Nikki Renee Daniels, Joseph Dellger, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Chris Peluso, Megan Reinking, Sarah Solie, Amy Sparrow, Will Swenson, Steve Wilson and Tommar Wilson.

Warner Bros. bills Lestat as "the romantic and heartbreaking story of the extraordinary journey of one man who escapes the tyranny of his oppressive family only to have his life taken from him. Thrust into the seductive and sensual world of an immortal vampire, Lestat sets out on a road of adventures in a quest for everlasting love and companionship but is forced to reconcile his innate sense of good with his primal need to exist."

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John and Taupin represent one of the great marriages of pop songwriting. They started working together in the 1960s, and their hits include "Candle in the Wind" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road."

Now, they are turning to a new form for them: Musical theatre rather than pop albums. Think of their new team-up as "together again for the first time."

"Elton and I have threatened for years to work together on something for Broadway but until now had never found anything that appealed to both of us collectively or suited my own personal writing style," Taupin said in production notes. "We have unified [the Anne Rice] books into a linear storyline and our intention is to make a stylish, sexy, intelligent and richly hypnotic show that is stripped of gothic clichés and that shows the vampire dealing with his damnation on a more realistic and human level. Please let me make this clear this is not a rock opera."

"This musical is the fulfillment of my deepest dreams," said author Anne Rice, in a statement. "Elton's music and Bernie's lyrics have captured the pain and the passion of the characters perfectly, and the entire adaptation has re-created the very essence of the books. Working with the whole team — Rob Roth, Linda Woolverton, and of course Elton and Bernie — has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire career. The talent, the brilliance, and the generosity of these folks is beyond belief. I'm humbled; I'm grateful; and I'm so excited that I can hardly stand it. Lestat, Louis and Claudia are about to be reborn."

Elton John said in production notes, "'Interview with the Vampire' is one of my favorite books and Anne Rice is one of my favorite authors. Lestat is the first stage musical that I've written with Bernie which makes it even more special for me."

"Anne had always loved the idea of seeing her 'Vampire Chronicles' set in some sort of serious and seductive musical setting and for all of the parties involved this is the opportunity of a lifetime," stated Taupin.

The creative team includes scenic designer Derek McLane, costume designer Susan Hilferty, lighting designer Kenneth Posner, sound designer Jonathan Deans, visual concept designer Dave McKean, and hair designer Tom Watson.

Lestat has orchestrations by Steve Margoshes and Guy Babylon, with musical supervision by Guy Babylon, musical direction by Brad Haak, and vocal arrangements by Todd Ellison.

The playing schedule for Lestat during previews is as follows: Monday through Saturday at 8 PM, with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM. There will be no 2 PM matinees Wednesday March 29 or Wednesday April 26. There will be an added 2 PM matinee on Friday April 28. The regular playing schedule for Lestat, beginning Tuesday May 2 is as follows: Tuesday at 7 PM, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 PM, with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, and Sunday at 3 PM. Tickets range from $65 to $110, and can be purchased through Ticketmaster.com at (212) 307-4100.

For more information, visit www.lestat.com.