Review: Vampires Rock, at Bristol Hippodrome
Bristol 24-7 By Ramon Youseph
I confess that up until the time I was presented with the tickets by my partner, I had never heard of Vampires Rock, and certainly didn’t appreciate the strong cult following of this fun filled rock musical that has grown since it began in 2004. So on a coldish Sunday evening (7th November 2011) my partner and I made our way to the Bristol Hippodrome with reserved anticipation as to what we could expect from what we assumed to be largely a low key and unheard of production.
Sometime in the future, Baron Von Rockula (yes, really), brilliantly played by Steven Steinman, a rock star and centuries old vampire is searching for a new bride. The Baron holds auditions for a new singer to perform at his “Live and Let Die” club, home to his ghoulish resident band The Lost Boys, and maintained by his undead and leacherous manservant Bosley (John Evans). Then in walks the very shy Pandora Rosie (Hayley Russell), a young woman who desperately wants to become a singer and agrees to audition for the club. Soon the Baron is smitten and invokes all his charm and charisma, as well as his dark powers in an effort to seduce Pandora into the world of everlasting rock and roll.
The story is basic, not unlike that of other rock operas/musicals such as We Will Rock You yet serves its purpose ultimately as it is largely told through a carefully selected compilation of classic rock anthems, with some brief introductory scenes and comic interludes acting as a segue-way into the musical numbers. The setting and plot also lay the ground for some entertaining and even moving performances, adding a bit more substance to the story. The force behind the show is its writer, producer, director and star Steve Steinman, a chef and restaurateur who found fame as Meat Loaf in 1990?s TV talent show Stars in Their Eyes, going onto to play the rock legend on stage in The Meat Loaf Trilogy.
Steinman’s production effortlessly combines the closest of bedfellows rock music and Gothic horror, particularly the vampire myths, with entertaining results. It has everything a lover of rock and horror could wish for; spooky settings, creatures donned in leather lace & the occasional chain, and of course legendary rock anthems pounding out across the theatre. The comic interludes between Steinman’s Baron and the zany and disgusting Bosley, who keeps pelvic thrusting and stroking the hammer dangling from his utility belt, add to the fun filled atmosphere. As silly as it all the antics on stage sound we found ourselves laughing heartily. The occasional spontaneous burst from the audience which Steinman responds to both with speed and wit, as well as some unintentionally comedic moments and laughter made the interludes even more fun. However the show is all about showcasing and celebrating the world’s greatest rock anthems and without a doubt, Steinman and the cast excel here.
Vampires Rock The House
The list of rock classics include Guns N Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle, Billy Idol’s White Wedding, as well as Highway to Hell and Hells Bells by AC/DC. Steinman without a doubt is the star of the show, strutting onto the stage dressed in leather trousers, frilly black shirt and long velvet overcoat, exudes all the charisma and energy of a rock star with a powerhouse vocal ability to match. Hayley Russell is both endearing and sexy as Pandora Rosie Honey Box (again, yes really) and her equally amazing vocal talents are a sad reminder of the absence of great female vocalists in rock music. Both the stars perform hit after hit giving it their all. My favourite performance of the night was their duet of the Bonnie Tyler classic Total Eclipse of the Heart. The vocals were excellent and packed with raw emotion which left the audience in awed silence and a lump in my throat.
Of course it wasn’t just the leads who shone on stage. Steinman’s handpicked members of The Lost Boys such as guitarist Henry JT Bird with a fantastic cover of Journey’s infamous Don’t Stop Believing as well as my favourite Marc Bolan track 20th Century Boy. John Evans as Bosley not only has fun as the Renfield-esque self abusing janitor but contributes strong vocals to various tracks. The musicality of The Lost Boys is matched by their energy, donning spooky make up and bounding enthusiastically on stage and generally getting into the whole vampire setting with glee.
I feel that the secret to a successful show is one that is so enjoyable it stays with you long after it is over, something which Vampires Rock certainly accomplishes. On the whole it was a fun filled evening in every respect from great laughs to rock classics brilliantly performed. The audicence was laughing, singing, clapping, and dancing in the isles which the performers encouraged at every turn creating a wonderfully fun filled atmosphere. Any fan of rock music should enjoy this spectacular show and in case you were wondering, vampires exist and they do indeed ROCK!