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Welcome to the "Dance of the Vampires" fan community! Yes, we mean the Broadway version. Yes, we are serious.

Fandom Manifesto: DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES (Broadway 2002/03) – Steinman/Ives/Kunze

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1. What is Dance of the Vampires?

A spectacular rollercoaster ride, twisting and turning from romance to comedy to gothic fantasy, all set against explosive dance and an opulent score by the Grammy-winning, multi-platinum composer Jim Steinman.

“Dance of the Vampires” is a hot-wired fairytale in which a charismatic vampire, Count Von Krolock, jousts to win the body and soul of a beautiful eighteen-year old virgin who only knows that she wants… more!


(from the original blurb of the Dance of the Vampires demo CD, 2002)

“Dance of the Vampires” is the Broadway version of the Austrian musical hit “Tanz der Vampire” (music by Jim Steinman, German-language lyrics/book by Michael Kunze), itself based on Roman Polanski’s 1967 comedy horror film / horror parody “Dance of the Vampires” (U.K. title; also known as “The Fearless Vampire Killers” in the U.S.).

After 61 previews, DOTV premiered on December 9th, 2002, at the Minskoff Theatre, NY, and closed on January 25th, 2003, after only 56 performances.

Tanz was created by Jim Steinman and Michael Kunze, in close cooperation with Roman Polanski. DOTV is not merely an English translation, but a new version penned by Jim Steinman, David Ives, and Michael Kunze, that differs substantially in book and lyrics and the overall tone. It made plot changes, introduced new characters, and even changed some of the songs. We think it is only fair to see DOTV as a canon of its own that should also be treated as such in fandom.

Tanz enjoyed great success (and continues to be very successful in productions all over the globe since 1997 that follow the Austrian version), but DOTV was a massive financial and critical failure, and while there was a small fan base during its Broadway run (Yahoo Groups, mailing lists, some participation in Tanz and Jim Steinman message boards, and for a while a fannish website dedicated to the show) it never found wider acceptance among Tanz fans or the fannish community focusing on European musicals.

Where to find the canon:

As this is a Broadway show that only had a very short run, and no official video or audio recording exists (yes, not even the “Original Broadway Cast” album one would expect), there is only one way to get to know this canon: via bootlegs, i.e. recording that members of the audience took. That is not exactly legal, but given that there is no official DVD or CD, there’s no alternative. You will find bootlegs or parts thereof on YouTube, but most are of terrible quality and make the costumes and sets look anything but pretty. Those who’ve had a chance to see it live on Broadway can tell you that the sets were actually impressive (that bridge! that staircase!). Nowhere near the splendour of the Austrian original, but a visual feast in its own right.
For a video bootleg in a quality better than what is available on YouTube, please consult Krolock’s library. (For the log-in details contact the webmaster or the mod of the Dreamwidth community danceofthevampires.)

2. The Characters

Main characters:

Count Giovanni von Krolock

Michael Crawford as Count von Krolock

The charming leader of the vampires. Once a scholar and polymath, he now struggles with his never-ending appetite and immortality. Sarah presents an opportunity for him to escape the ennui of his undead existence, as she fits the description of an ancient prophecy that would allow vampires to conquer the Earth. The Broadway show portrays him as a kind of sad Pierrot who uses jokes to deflect from his tragedy. Probably part-Italian, definitely an advocate of bad accents. Portrayed by Michael Crawford.

Sarah Chagal

Mandy Gonzalez as Sarah Chagal

The innkeepers’ sheltered daughter, about to turn 18. Dreams of excitement and adventures that life at the village cannot offer her. Has a canonical bathing kink. Portrayed by Mandy Gonzalez.

Professor Abronsius

René Auberjonois as Professor Abronsius

Disgraced university professor, mocked by his colleagues for his theories, he is on a quest to find and destroy what he thinks is the last vampire. Logic is what guides his life. Portrayed by René Auberjonois.

Alfred

Max von Essen as Alfred

Former theology student, now the Professor’s faithful factotum, though he is clearly not only into logic. A Sturm und Drang kind of romantic hero. Portrayed by Max von Essen.

Minor characters:

(Yoyneh) Chagal

Ron Orbach as Chagal

Innkeeper and Sarah’s overprotective father. Portrayed by Ron Orbach. We do not learn his first name in the musical, but Yoyneh is what he’s called in Polanski’s film.

Rebecca Chagal

Liz McCartney as Rebecca Chagal

Yoyneh’s wife and Sarah’s mother. She is fed up with the harsh life and her husband’s skirt-chasing. Portrayed by Liz McCartney.

Magda

Leah Hocking as Magda

Works as maid at Chagal’s inn. It is unclear how consensual her situation with Yoyneh is before she gets turned into a vampire. Portrayed by Leah Hocking.

Herbert von Krolock

Asa Somers as Herbert

Introduced as Krolock’s son, but we never learn whether he is his biological or adopted son, or if he maybe was one of his victims that Krolock took under his wing. Openly gay, and very interested in Alfred. Portrayed by Asa Somers.

Boris

Mark Price as Boris

Dogsbody at Chagal’s inn and very frustrated with his work; when Krolock appears to him as bat and hypnotises him into obedience, he eagerly accepts him as new master. For Boris this is definitely a step up from his former position. Portrayed by Mark Price.

Nadja

E. Alyssa Claar as Nadja

Sarah’s friend, fridged in the first scene. Might be addicted to shrooms. Portrayed by E. Alyssa Claar.

Zsa-Zsa

Erin Leigh Peck as Zsa-Zsa

Sarah’s other friend, also fridged in the first scene. Both girls reappear as vampires. Portrayed by Erin Leigh Peck.

Madame von Krolock

Dame Edith Shorthouse (= Michael Crawford) as Madame von Krolock

We never learn who she is supposed to be: Krolock’s mother? Sister? Very likely she is just Krolock in drag. Portrayed by Dame Edith Shorthouse (yes, now you know that Michael Crawford has a drag queen name).

Ships:

Krolock/Sarah, Sarah/Alfred: Both pairings are canonical. As is the fact that Sarah wants both. You go, girl!

Krolock/Sarah/Alfred: Would be a logical solution, and is alluded to in Alfred’s nightmare.

Alfred/Herbert: Maybe one-sided, maybe more.

Krolock/Alfred: Krolock did offer him a phallic bath sponge after all. And Alfred’s nightmare features Krolock in a clearly erotic way.

Rebecca/Yoyneh/Magda: canonical threesome; the vampiric transformation seems to solve the problematic erotic triangle between the Chagals and their maid in a way that all three embrace. 

Krolock/Herbert: especially interesting when one follows the theory that Herbert is not actually his biological son.

Abronsius & Alfred: A very fatherly relationship; Alfred adores his mentor.

Abronsius & Krolock: Books, books! They could get along well, with a little willingness. 

The animatronic bat in DOTV
A very foul-mouthed bat

3. Why do we promote this canon?

DOTV got lambasted by the majority of critics, and it is still the object of mockery from Tanz fans today, but we do not want to get into the old Tanz/DOTV argument. It is undeniable that some questionable decisions were made for the Broadway version, but we maintain that it should be seen as its own canon, and cherished for the wild and campy entertainment it offers. DOTV does not take itself seriously, but is a spoof of the mega musical (while still playing by the rules of the mega musical). It is full of anachronisms and contradictions, varies in tone throughout, going from drama to romance to comedy and back so fast that it might give you whiplash, while repeatedly breaking the fourth wall. Let’s not forget, the music slaps! 

The characters are fascinating. We have a strong female lead that is anything but a damsel in distress. Sarah Chagal does not need saving, thank you very much. Krolock offers her a chance to own her desires, to unashamedly ask and demand, but the desires, the hunger, are all her own.

Count Giovanni von Krolock is the character who got most panned by the critics, but his rockstar behaviour, the faux accent, the bad jokes all contribute to the wild mix this eccentric man is. Immortality is both a blessing and a curse, and we believe him that underneath his antics he is actually looking for a true connection with another being, for someone that sees him the way(s) he is and still accepts him. He’s the villain, make no mistake, but also the victim of his vampiric existence. If you look beyond the camp aspects, you will find that the added humour actually adds to the tragic story of the vampire count; he is a kind of blood-thirsty Pierrot here, hungry for life and love, and Count Giovanni von Krolock deserves fannish love (and an after-life beyond the show, via fic) indeed. 

Krolock and Sarah as they cross the drawbridge to his castle
Come with me!

4. A short outline of the plot (contains spoilers galore)

Lower Belabartokovich, Carpathia (we can assume the writers mean Transylvania), 1880-something, three days before Halloween. Sarah Chagal and her friends Nadja and Zsa-Zsa are out in the woods collecting mushrooms, and it is getting late. They encounter a wild horde of vampires; Nadja and Zsa-Zsa get bitten and abducted.

With her friends out of the way, Count Giovanni von Krolock makes a dramatic entrance (in a sort of steampunk rocket coffin!) and introduces himself to Sarah. We find out that she will turn 18 on Halloween, and – as luck would have it – there’ll also be a total lunar eclipse at the time. Krolock reveals that he has been waiting for her for a long time, and he charms her and gives her a small taste of what could be; she reacts most enthusiastically to the tiny bite, but he acts with restraint. He suggests that she could celebrate her birthday at his castle; as he takes his leave, he announces that he will return with a special invitation for her, and presents her with a bathing sponge as a gift.

Scene change to the inn owned by Sarah’s parents, Yoyneh and Rebecca Chagal, where the villagers are celebrating the annual garlic festival. They get interrupted by the arrival of Professor Abronsius and his factotum Alfred who are on the hunt for the “last remaining vampire”. The villagers are clearly afraid of vampires and know how doomed their village is due to the undead horde nearby, but Yoyneh shushes them; he does not want to scare off the two strangers; tourists are a rare occurrence in this village. Abronsius emphasises how he is purely guided by science and logic.

In a short scene, Madame von Krolock (Krolock in drag) stops by at the inn to buy silk for a blood-red ball gown.

We learn that Sarah has become ill since her trip to the woods, being feverish and behaving strangely, and Abronsius rightly diagnoses her with beginning vampirism. He treats her with a blood transfusion, with Alfred being her willing blood donor. The young man has immediately developed a crush on her, and Sarah is also quite interested in him, although this is at least partially caused by the bite that has lowered her inhibitions.

In the meantime, Boris has encountered a bat in the inn and is hypnotised into becoming Krolock’s servant.

Yoyneh Chagal, Sarah’s overprotective father, laments how difficult it is to have a daughter, while he shutters the windows to her room with wooden boards. This does not help at all, however, as something/someone disturbs his work and he falls out of the window.

Sarah wakes up to a bat in her room that transforms into Count von Krolock. She initially does not remember him, due to the healing blood transfusion she has received earlier, but Krolock manages to remind her quickly. He repeats his invitation to a birthday ball at his castle, describing vividly how dull and grey the future awaiting her in this village would be, and tempting her with her dreams and aspirations for something better. She promises to come to his castle.

The next day, the villagers find Yoyneh’s frozen corpse outside, and Abronsius points out the bite marks the innkeeper has all over his body. Both Rebecca, Yoyneh’s wife, and Magda, maid at the inn and object of his relentless amorous advances, mourn him in a very ambivalent way, but the alleged corpse suddenly comes to life, scaring the both of them, before running off. 

As evening draws near Sarah has an unexpected visitor: Madame von Krolock who gives her a pair of red velvet boots and reminds her that the Count is waiting for her. Sarah is torn between the two men vying for her attention: she feels the pull to go to Krolock’s castle, but she also has feelings for Alfred, who equally tempts her with the option of running away with him and leaving the village behind. Alfred, too, dreams of freedom and chances beyond this simple life, and now with Sarah he has the courage to go through with it.

The magical pull is too strong, however. Sarah imagines herself dancing at the promised ball, in the red velvet boots, and tricks Alfred in order to be able to run off to Krolock’s castle. He welcomes her with open arms, while a devastated Alfred and the villagers are chasing behind her.

Act 2 begins with Sarah wandering the halls of the castle, sleepless. She is conflicted, and in her big love duet with Krolock sings about her fears and desires. Krolock struggles with his own restraint, as her neck beckons to him, but he forces himself to wait for the right moment: the ball.

Meanwhile Abronsius and Alfred have made their way to the castle, Alfred on a mission to save Sarah, the Professor more interested in killing the vampire count, but as they sneak around Krolock surprises them and invites them to stay. He introduces Alfred to his son Herbert, and tries to tempt Abronsius with immortality and the legendary library Krolock keeps at his castle: the Collectiana Krolockiana includes every book ever written. Boris, who now works as a servant at Krolock’s castle, shows the Professor and Alfred to their room. They fall asleep, but Alfred is plagued by a nightmare that features him and Krolock in an erotically charged dance-like fight over Sarah. 

As Abronsius and Alfred look for the Krolocks, they find Chagal’s corpse in one of the tombs in the crypt. As they are about to stake him, Rebecca intervenes; he is still her husband after all, vampire or not. She and Magda reminisce once more about the past with this difficult man, but the undead Chagal awakens and bites first Magda and then Rebecca. To their surprise they feel better than ever, and in a twist of events, they join Chagal in his tomb, not without putting up a “Do not disturb” sign before closing it.

Alfred has meanwhile followed a voice he thinks to be Sarah’s and ends up in Herbert’s room. The young vampire woos Alfred and leads him into a waltz. Alfred is hesitant, but in his hope to find a way to save Sarah, he gives in for a bit – until Herbert tries to bite him; Alfred manages to fend him off with a book and flees the room.

He finally finds Sarah as she is getting ready for the ball, but she rejects him; she does not need him to save her because she wants what Krolock offers. As a dejected Alfred leaves her, she does have a moment of doubt, however.

Outside of the castle a large crowd of vampires appear from a graveyard, stretching their limbs and preparing to attend the ball.

Abronsius confronts Krolock and tries to appeal to what human morals may be left in him, then prophesies his downfall. In a long and moving soliloquy (the most serious part of the musical), Krolock thinks back on his life, his many victims, and the never-ending appetite. 

The scene changes to the ballroom in the castle. Abronsius and Alfred have disguised themselves and pose as guests. To the excited cheers of the crowd, Boris announces Count von Krolock, and he descends down the grand staircase in rockstar manner. As the highlight of the ball he proudly presents Sarah, and she willingly offers her neck to him. Moments after the bite, as she sinks down onto the stairs, Abronsius and Alfred strike; in the resulting mayhem the Professor smashes in a window just as the sun rises and the light hits Krolock. He seemingly dies, but not without getting the last laugh: Indeed, as Alfred flees with Sarah, she turns out to now be a vampire herself and bites him, while Abronsius is unaware of this development. 

The final scene fast-forwards to the present, with a New York Times Square that shows that vampires have indeed taken over the world. Krolock makes a last appearance as conductor rising from the orchestra pit.

A few quotes to whet your appetite:

Yoyneh Chagal: “I’ve got a pumpkin here, and I’m not afraid to use it!”

Krolock to Sarah: “A good nightmare comes so rarely. I’ll show you yours if you show me mine.”

Alfred to Krolock: “I refuse your sponge, sir.”

Krolock to Alfred: “Shall I do you now or do you later?”

Herbert: “Those are my bats. You wanna see my balls?”

Alfred to Herbert: “I’m straight. I’m Lutheran. I’m alive. And yet I do find you strangely attractive.”

Abronsius: “Alfred, those two vampires aren’t getting any younger. Come to think of it, they aren’t getting any older either.”

Madame von Krolock: “I hate nuns.”

Magda: “I always wanted a hair salon. Or a whorehouse.”

Krolock and Sarah during the ball
Finally allowed to omnomnom!

5. Where to find the fandom / fanworks for this canon

There is only a very, very small fannish community for DOTV nowadays. (And we would like to change that!) The fan sites are quite new and therefore still under construction; the DW community does not yet have members.

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