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from The Leading Men - Vamp Til Ready
Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s Lestat might’ve been left for dead by
some critics during its San Francisco tryout earlier this year, but its creative
team and cast hope to revive it with a major “revamp” before its Broadway bow on
April 25 at the Palace. With a book by Linda Woolverton based on Anne Rice’s
“The Vampire Chronicles,” this Gothic musical aims to succeed where Dance of the
Vampires and Dracula failed in vein. Hugh Panaro, who stars as Lestat, says,
“We’ve got a whole different show than the one in San Francisco. Now the story
is crystal-clear, and the relationships have been enhanced. We have a new
opening and a new ending, and [creative consultant] Jonathan [Butterell] has
brought in so many fresh ideas.”
Panaro, who was phenomenal in The Phantom of the Opera, is also working on
his first solo album for Sony: “I’ll be doing mostly new tunes: Elton John,
Desmond Child, Richard Marx. I want to get back to beautiful singing. When you
hear songs these days, there’s so many bells and whistles that you can’t hear
Q: What’s the story of Lestat?
Panaro: No. If I had to label them, I’d say that Louis and Lestat are life
companions. In Anne Rice’s world, vampires do not have sex. The deepest way they
can show affection is through an exchange of blood. It’s their equivalent of
having an orgasm. Louis and Lestat also have a daughter [Claudia] together, and
that’s a complete mirror of where we are in our current culture. So many
same-sex marriages are now adopting children and raising, quite honestly, much
more functional families than someone who’s divorced or staying with [a spouse]
he or she hates.
Panaro: There could be. But to me, it’s about freeing yourself of the
shackles that are holding you back. That could be homophobia. It could be
religious repression. The bottom line is: Have the balls to live the life you
want to lead.
Panaro: It’s not a rock opera. It’s not Aida. It’s surprisingly
legit. It’s rangy, and we are singing our asses off. I love Elton and Bernie. I
just got a new song called “Right Before My Eyes” and it’s f***ing great. The
day after Elton sent it, it was so cute. He wanted to know if I liked the song.
Omigod, the melody’s great and Bernie’s lyrics are so poetic and show-specific.
Now it’s my favorite song in the show.
Panaro: It was one of the most helpful workshops I’ve ever done. We were
given scenes at midnight sometimes that we put in the next day. I don’t read
reviews, but I know they were mixed, negative and great, and Elton, Bernie,
Linda and Rob [Jess Roth] addressed [the criticisms], which is why we have this
kickass version. We also had amazing fans there who came back each week and they
don’t bull**** you.
Panaro: I believe Jack is very close to the character as he’s described in
the book. But we were told that they wanted a more menacing presence, and Drew
is maybe 6-foot-1. Jack was a class act and told us all that he was fine with
it. Since then, he’s been on “CSI,” so hopefully he’s laughing all the way to
Panaro: We’ve kept her abreast of everything, and she loves the show. That’s how I know we’re already a hit. When the movie of “Interview With a Vampire” was first cast [with Tom Cruise], she was not happy and said so. I’m gonna toot my own horn for a second. I met Anne in San Francisco, and it was like meeting the Pope. We hugged, and she said, “When I wrote this character, I never thought anyone could play him. You are Lestat. You sound like him. You look like him. I have nothing to add.” Her blessing gave me the freedom to let go of any insecurities. It was great.