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Crawford bites on B’Way ‘Vampires’

'Phantom' star returns to stage for Polanski movie spoof

NEW YORK — Fourteen years after his blood-letting turn in “The Phantom of the Opera,” Michael Crawford returns to Broadway this season in another musical of the macabre, “Dance of the Vampires.”

Based on Roman Polanski’s 1967 movie spoof “The Fearless Vampire Killers,” the show opens April 11 at the Minskoff Theatre.

Crawford will play Count von Krolock, a distinguished vampire who battles with a grad student from Heidelberg U over the body and soul of a young woman. The tuner had its world premiere four years ago in Vienna. Polanski directed that stage version, as well as a later incarnation, which is still running in Stuttgart, Germany.

Over the years, “Vampires” producer Andrew Braunsberg attempted but failed to bring the director back to the U.S. to stage the musical on Broadway. Polanski fled the United States in 1977 when faced with charges of statutory rape. David Sonenberg, who is producing the show in Gotham with Braunsberg, said those efforts to return Polanski to the States had contributed to the delay of the show’s U.S. premiere. Braunsberg also produced Polanski’s film version of “Macbeth” in 1971.

John Caird (“Jane Eyre”) and Jim Steinman, composer-lyricist on “Dance of the Vampires,” will helm the Gotham production, which Sonenberg calls “a new version of the show. It is significantly changed with a view towards a New York audience.”

The book is by Michael Kunze and David Ives. Steinman is best known as songwriter on the Meat Loaf album “Bat Out of Hell,” and is currently at work for Warner Bros. on the musical version of “Batman.”

Braunsberg and Sonenberg, who is Steinman’s manager, are making their Broadway debuts as producers with “Dance of the Vampires.” They were reported to be joined on the project with the producing team Anita Waxman and Elizabeth Williams (“The Music Man,” “The Real Thing”).

“I looked to bring them in,” said Sonenberg, “but we were never able to reach a definitive agreement.” Waxman and Williams did not return phone calls. Sonenberg said the show, capitalized at $10 million, will not have an out-of-town run prior to Broadway. It goes into rehearsals in January, and there will be a long preview sked of approximately six weeks.

From phantom to vampire

Mort Viner, Crawford’s long-time manager, dismissed any criticism that the actor was looking to repeat his “Phantom” success with another macabre perf on Broadway.

” ‘Vampires’ will be a totally difference performance because of the comedy,” said Viner, who has repped Crawford since the actor’s appearance in the movie version of “Hello, Dolly!” in 1969. Crawford won a Tony Award for “The Phantom of the Opera” in 1988.

Viner said Crawford had seen “Dance of the Vampires” (originally titled “Dance With the Vampires”) in Vienna, and had been in discussions with Braunsberg and Sonenberg on the project for the past 18 months. According to Sonenberg, the actor has been “working with us the last several months on input on the book.”

According to Viner, Crawford has committed to the show for one year in New York.

Sonenberg announced no other principals for the show, but said casting on the show would be complete in about six weeks after further casting sessions in September.

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