A Crimson Kiss: Elton John & Bernie Taupin Bring Lestat to Life in San Francisco

News   A Crimson Kiss: Elton John & Bernie Taupin Bring Lestat to Life in San Francisco
Lestat, the new musical that reunites the legendary pop songwriting team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, collaborating together on a legit musical for the first time, begins performances in San Francisco Dec. 17.

From Left: Carolee Carmello, Hugh Panaro and Jack Noseworthy star in Lestat.
From Left: Carolee Carmello, Hugh Panaro and Jack Noseworthy star in Lestat. Photo by Paul Kolnik

The lush, shadowy, romantic world of the vampire title character (drawn from the novels of Anne Rice and played by Hugh Panaro) emerges at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco in a pre-Broadway engagement that continues to Jan. 29, 2006. As is usual with a musical work in progress, the creative team — composer John, lyricist Taupin, director Robert Jess Roth, book writer Linda Woolverton and choreographer Matt West (credited with musical staging) — are expected to be in residence in San Francisco in the coming weeks to hone the world premiere production.

Broadway performances begin at the Palace Theatre on March 11, 2006. The show is scheduled to open on Broadway April 13.

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.

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."

The producer, Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, run by Gregg Maday, 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."

In addition to Panaro, a veteran of Broadway's The Phantom of the Opera, the principal cast includes Carolee Carmello (Mamma Mia!, Parade) as Gabrielle, Jack Noseworthy (Sweet Smell of Success) as Armand, Jim Stanek as Louis, Roderick Hill as Nicolas, Michael Genet as Marius and Allison Fischer as Claudia.

"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.

Lestat's cast of 16 features Rachel Coloff, Nikki Renee Daniels, Joseph Dellger, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Chris Peluso, Megan Reinking, Drew Sarich, Sarah Solie, Amy Sparrow, Will Swenson, Steve Wilson and Tommar Wilson.

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.

(For a taste of what the writers have created, audio clips with John singing three numbers — "Make Me as You Are," "Crimson Kiss," "Sail Me Away" — can be heard at www.lestatmusical.com. The official website for the show is www.lestat.com.)

The show will reunite the creators of Broadway's Beauty and the Beast: Roth, Woolverton and West.

Tickets for Lestat in San Francisco range in price from $30-$90 and are available online at shnsf.com, through Ticketmaster by calling (415) 512-7770, at ticketmaster.com, at all Ticketmaster ticket centers and at the Curran Theatre box office (445 Geary, Monday-Friday Noon-6 PM). For groups of 20 or more, call (415) 551-2020.

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