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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 April 2006, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Disappointing start for Elton musical
By Tom Brook
BBC Entertainment correspondent, New York

Sir Elton John attends the Broadway opening of Lestat
Sir Elton's other musicals include The Lion King and Billy Elliot

Sir Elton John's new Broadway show Lestat has been judged a "musical sleeping pill" by America's top theatre critic, Ben Brantley of The New York Times.

Such a harsh verdict does not augur well for the future of this 7m production, inspired by author Anne Rice's best-selling Vampire Chronicles.

At the show's opening night, Sir Elton told the BBC that staging the musical, which tells the story of an anguished young man who turns into a vampire, was not easy.

"It was a very tough musical to write. You have to get people to fall in love with a vampire, you have to make it dark and sexy, you have to get empathy for him," he said.

Lestat is Elton John's first joint theatrical endeavour with his long-time songwriting collaborator Bernie Taupin.

Bon Jovi, attending the New York opening of Lestat
Opening night was attended by stars including Jon Bon Jovi

But the "dream team" had trouble creating on-stage magic even before the show arrived in New York. In its pre-Broadway run in San Francisco several weeks ago, Lestat received a pounding from critics.

"I saw it in San Francisco and I thought it was not very good," said Sir Elton.

"It's changed 80% since then - and we've been working non-stop to get it right and we put all the great things from the book back in the musical."

But the show drew praise from novelist Anne Rice. When asked what Sir Elton's work brought to the production she said: "Magnificent music, tremendous music, beautiful, beautiful songs - and songs that demand great voices".

This is Sir Elton's fourth big venture into musical theatre. The singer has scored hits with The Lion King and Aida, and his Billy Elliott musical, currently playing in London, is a musical triumph.

Bernie Taupin, at the opening of Lestat in New York
Lyricist Bernie Taupin was behind many of Sir Elton's hit tracks

The star seemed to sense that his latest production might be heading for a mixed reception as he strode up the red carpet in New York on Tuesday: "I'd be an absolute liar if I said I'm not nervous about it being a flop."

"All I know is that we've done the best we can. I saw the show ten days ago and I think it's fabulous."

Critic Ben Brantley wrote: "This portrait of blood suckers in existential crisis gives resounding credence to the legend that vampires are masters of hypnosis.

"Dare to look upon Lestat and keep your eyelids from growing heavier and heavier and heavier."

New York theatre columnist Michael Riedel, who has been impressed by Elton John's previous musicals, said: "I just feel that in this one he hasn't come up with a score that is particularly interesting or compelling."

Anne Rice, at the opening of Lestat in New York
Anne Rice's novels inspired the musical book for Lestat
Whatever the critics think, Ms Rice takes the view that this is a musical extravaganza with substance - entertainment with which audiences everywhere can identify.

"The vampire is metaphorical, he's something beyond himself. I think it's a metaphor for the alienated one in all of us, for the outsider in all of us."

When it comes to his work in musical theatre, Sir Elton said: "There's no point in doing a musical that's not a risk."

I always try to do risky things. I'm not interested in doing Yellow Brick Road: The Musical. Those kinds of things don't interest me."

I'm interested in breaking new ground, writing different things for the stage - and I think we've done it with this."

Critics may not agree - but their vampire-like attacks have not completely sucked the lifeblood out of this production.

Previews in New York have been well attended - and Sir Elton has a multitude of fans, so with his name attached there will still be a demand to see the show.

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28 Sep 05 |  Entertainment
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27 Sep 05 |  Entertainment


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