Roman Polanski was the star of the evening on Thursday at the Théâtre Mogador in Paris when the Oscar-winning director opened his new production of the musical comedy "Le Bal des Vampires," an adaptation of his 1967 movie "The Fearless Vampire Killers."
The musical, which Polanski directed, is a French-language staging of the comedy that was first seen in 1997 in Vienna with the German title "Tanz der Vampire." The musical has been produced in a number of European cities since then, but this version marks the first time it has been staged in Paris, where the 81-year-old Polanski resides.
Polanski told the Associated Press that he has tried for years to get the musical mounted in Paris and only recently succeeded because of renewed popularity of the genre. Stage Entertainment, a Dutch company responsible for bringing mega-musical productions to Europe, has backed the Paris production of "Vampires."
On Thursday, Polanski took a bow with the French cast and also posed on the red carpet. The musical's cast includes David Alexis and Daniel Carta Mantiglia in the roles of Professor Abronsius and his meek assistant Alfred, who infiltrate a castle inhabited by vampires. In the original movie, the roles were played by Jack McGowran and Polanski.
The 1967 movie was notable for featuring Sharon Tate in the supporting role of a young damsel. (The director would later marry Tate.) In the musical, her character is played by Raphaëlle Cohen.
An English-language version of "Vampires" opened on Broadway in 2002 with the title "Dance of the Vampires," but closed quickly. Polanski, a fugitive from U.S. justice since 1978, wasn't involved with the New York production.
The quasi-rock score is by Jim Steinman, the pop composer who has worked with Bonnie Tyler and Meat Loaf. (The score prominently features the Tyler single "Total Eclipse of the Heart.")
Early notices have not been kind. A review from the Hollywood Reporter called the production a "turnip" -- the French equivalent of a turkey.
"Most of the comedy comes at irregular intervals here and is overly broad, sub-par Mel Brooks-type slapstick that feels as old as some of the vampires themselves," wrote critic Boyd van Hoeij.
A review from Le Figaro faulted the production for being overly sentimental and failing to successfully replicate the comic spirit of the movie: Polanksi has "kept the framework of his fantastical and satirical movie, but, perhaps in bending toward current French tastes, he has dulled the bite and the irony." The song "Total Eclipse of the Heart" comes back "too often without it's being justified. It ends up being annoying."
Here's the trailer for the musical production, which is having an open-ended run in Paris.