Yesterday I went to go see Lestat and so I have decided to write a review. Don’t read if you don’t want to know about it. 🙂
The Best Worst Play I Have Ever Seen
I had heard very mixed reviews about this play going into it, so I really did not know what to expect. I knew that I loved the work of Dave McKean who was in charge of visual concept design, so I figured it would at least look pretty. And it did. Really pretty. I loved the sets… the costumes… the projected visuals (for the most part). But I have to admit that the acting pretty much sucked. Not all of it… but almost all of it.
Hugh Panaro as Lestat was pretty much insulting almost all the way through Act I. His delivery of dialog was stiff and unimaginative. While he does have a talented singing voice, it is unfortunate that they really didn’t give him much that was worth singing. Unfortunately this was a theme throughout the show. All in all this play had really little to no business being a musical. Or if it had to be a musical then it would have benefited from actually having good music. But it didn’t. Oh, boy it didn’t. The music by Elton John was passable at best, while the lyrics by Bernie Taupin were mostly terrible. (Pet peeve here… when writing a musical it is not necessary that every piece of dialog need be sung… I don’t want to hear you sing about how you are going to tell your story and let everybody know the truth, any more than I would want you to sing about how you were able to get all of your chores done that day and still have time for a quick bath.) But a good percentage of the lyrics in this play were just as mundane. Even this could have been forgiven, however, if the lyrics were poetic. But they weren’t. Out of all of the songs, only two stick out in my head as good… and even both of them had problems. Carolee Carmello as Gabrielle was a surprise gem in this play, especially after coming across so boring and stiff in her introduction. Later on when she was made into a vampire she emerged a strong presence which culminated in her performance of “The Crimson Kiss” which in my opinion was the musical highlight of the whole show. It was really quite good… I was both shocked and pleased that suddenly so much talent was shining through. I actually got chills… the music, the lyrics and the performance were astounding. Too bad it occurred near the end of Act I… nothing for the rest of the play would equal its vigor.
Lestat, as I have known him from the books of Anne Rice, is a rather Luciferian character. He lives by his own rules and is certainly larger than life. He has a type of messianic presence that compels those around him to engage him on his terms. But little of this was present in this version. Instead Lestat is presented as somewhat of a whiner in Act I. While he does become more powerful and engaging later on in the play, in the beginning he has nothing of his awesome presence and those of us who know the character are left with the feeling that our beloved vampire-to-be has been emasculated even before his story begins. It’s like Lestat-lite… now with 10% less interest.
Claudia was played by the talented Allison Fischer, who’s performance was both strong and believable. When she sang “I Want More” it was another surprising high point for the show, although I felt that the song went on for much too long considering that it changed very little, both musically and lyrically.
At this point you are probably thinking that I hated this play… but you would be wrong. I did enjoy it… or at least parts of it. The overall story is one that I love and so it was certainly entertaining to see it played out before my eyes live… but I was disappointed in its overall execution. Especially for something that is being so obviously hyped and with some big names attached to it, I really expected more. I’d like to say that they should tweak it before it gets to Broadway, but honestly it needs more than just tweaking. Pretty much a whole new cast would be in order (you need people who can both sing and act!) and I believe that they rely much to heavily on the projected images which form a massive percentage of the set design. (For example… whenever a vampire drinks, images are projected upon the screen which depict the memories and experiences of the victim’s life… while interesting, the play would have benefited from the addition of the ensemble acting or dancing interpretively in the background… otherwise it quickly degenerates into a gimmick, that while interesting and even compelling the first time, becomes stale quickly.
So… if you have an extra $160 lying around burning a hole in your pocket and it’s either this play or a new pair of shoes, I’d think long and hard about your choice. My ticket was fortunately a gift, so I was able to relax and enjoy myself. If I had shelled out the money myself I would either have been very upset, or would have had to force myself into believing that I loved the show just to save face.