Home » Dance of the Vampires
Dance of the Vampires, which is translated from its original title in German Tanz der Vampire, is a musical production first produced in 1996. The story is a remake of the movie The Fearless Vampire Killers that was produced by Roman Polanski in 1967.
Michael Kunze, the librettist who written and directed, collaborated with Polanski to complete the screenwriting in order to provide the most accurate and heartfelt representation of the original film. This production was Kunze’s first English libretto and lyrics.
Roman Polanski is an award-winning screenwriter, director, and producer. Born on August 18, 1933, the French-Polish filmmaker is a household name in Hollywood. However, before he became the world-renowned filmmaker, he was studying to be an actor at the National Film School in Lodz in Poland in 1950.
It was not until 1955 that he directed his first film, Rower, at the school, thus birthing his love for directing. Roman Polanski’s first full-length film, Knife in the Water, was released in his native Poland in 1962.
His debut work was considered exceptional worldwide, thus receiving a nomination by the US Academy Awards in the category of Best Foreign Language Film. In 1966, Polanski made his move to the States, and produced his first Oscar-winning achievement. Rosemary’s Baby, a horror film that has since become a cult classic, established Polanski as a successful director in Hollywood.
The Fearless Vampire Killers, which was the original film to the Dance of the Vampires, was produced by Polanski in 1967, was a parody of other vampire movies of the time. The assistant, Alfred, who is portrayed by Polanski, is traveling with a professor in Transylvania to research and hopefully find true vampires.
The film was shot using a colored Panavision lens, which when paired with the white snow-covered landscape, made the colors in the film pop. Also in the film was Sharon Tate, who portrayed the innkeeper’s daughter in the movie. Polanski married Sharon Tate the following year; she was murdered in 1969 while 8 ½ months’ pregnant by Charles Manson and the Family.
Since then Polanski has continued directing films, as noted with his 2002 historical film The Pianist that is based on the life of a Jewish-Polish musician during World War II. He earned three Academy Awards for the film, one of which was for Best Director.
Polanski has been frequently noted as a major influence in the works of other established directors including Wes Craven, the Coen Brothers, Abel Ferrara, Atom Egoyan, Park Chan-wook, and Darren Aronofsky.
The librettist and lyricist of the Dance of the Vampires, Michael Kunze was born on November 9, 1943 in Germany. Other than the 1996 Dance of the Vampires, Kunze has received attention for his work on the musicals Elisabeth; Mozart!; Rebecca; and Marie Antoinette. After he completed the Dance of the Vampires, it opened in its Germany form at the Viennese Raimund Theater in Vienna, Austria.
The show was moved to Stuttgart, Germany three years later in 2000, until its three year run in Hamburg. In 2006 the performance was moved to Berlin, and as of 2012, it is being performed regularly in Toyko, Japan; Budapest, Hungary; Warsaw, Poland; Vienna, Austria; and Stuttgart, Germany. The film made its way to North America where it made its Broadway debut. However, the US version was unauthorized and limited to a run of only 3 months.
The story of the Dance of the Vampires is set in the latter part of the 19th century in the Swiss Alps. The protagonist Professor Abronsius, and his sidekick assistant Alfred, are in the region to complete research in reference to the professor’s theory that vampires are real.
The local villagers are of no assistance to the professor, denying the evidence of the creatures. After the two researchers are nearly frozen to death from being outside in the He, Ho, He Forest, they are saved by a stereotypical Jewish innkeeper. At the inn while in recovery, Alfred learns that the innkeeper has locked his gorgeous daughter, Sarah who is played by Sharon Tate, in a room so visitors cannot get a glimpse of her beauty. As Alfred and Sarah spend time together, Sarah is also visited frequently by the stranger who woos her with promises of power and immortality.
Meanwhile the innkeeper is seen by the professor making a business deal with the gory hunchback, Koukol, who lives in the woods. Later that next evening, Sarah cons Alfred into trading out his bath water for her to use.
Enjoying her newfound freedom, Sarah is attacked by Count von Krolock who is a vampire. He breaks into the bathroom and asks her to be his date at the midnight ball, where she will be able to enjoy the dance of the vampires. Just as he is about to seal his invite with a bite, Alfred breaks in and finds the two. Angered and afraid, he screams for someone to come. The innkeeper is furious with his daughter for taking the bath; he gives her a spanking and tells her she is never allowed to go outdoors again.
Sarah is given the ultimatum of going with Alfred to run away together or to attend the midnight ball with the Count. She chooses the ball and runs away into the woods. The innkeeper, after arming himself with garlic, takes off after her. The body of the innkeeper is found the next day, riddled with puncture wounds from bite marks.
The professor, ecstatic with his discovery, is discouraged by villagers who claim the bites are wolf bites. However, the professor insists and forces the innkeeper’s wife to stake him; she refuses and runs away.
Unfortunately he is a vampire, now, and once the professor and his assistant find him in his vampire state, they force him to take them to where the Count is hosting the midnight ball. In the second act the audience discovers the fate of Sarah, the professor, Albert, and the aristocratic vampire.
While the plot of the Dance of the Vampires as described here is in strong faith with the original story, the Americanized version as performed on Broadway was heavily rewritten.
There were several other issues that hampered the release of the film including the inability of Polanski to serve as director in order to avoid extradition from France because of a past legal issue involving having sexual relations with a minor. Also the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City occurred around the time the play was scheduled to open, which put a halt on the opening.