Elton John musical cancels first two weeks

Lestat may be looking for some fresh blood.

The Elton John-Bernie Taupin musical inspired by Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles has cancelled its first two weeks of preview performances in New York and delayed its Broadway opening until April 25.

Previews at the Palace Theatre will now begin March 25, instead of March 11 as originally planned.

The initial opening date was April 13.

Previews are held to make any needed last-minute changes before a show officially opens and is reviewed by critics.

Choreographer Jonathan Butterell, who worked on such shows as The Light in the Piazza and the recent revival of Fiddler on the Roof, has been brought in as a creative consultant “to provide an objective overview as it undergoes revisions,” the producers, Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, said.

The musical received scorching reviews during its San Francisco tryout, which ended on January 29.

The San Francisco Chronicle called the show “didactic, disjointed, oddly miscast, confusingly designed and floundering in an almost unrelentingly saccharine score by Elton John.”

The San Jose Mercury News sniffed, “the vampire musical showed few signs of life.”

John told the New York Post that he finally caught up with the musical last weekend in San Francisco and was ready to make changes, including revamping the first act and writing some new songs.

He said there were no plans to close the £6 million musical before its Broadway opening.

“After reading the reviews, I was fearing the worst, but I was pleasantly surprised,” John told the Post.

“We have a lot of work to do, I’m not going to deny that. ...,” John said. “We certainly ran into problems in San Francisco. But I think we can sort them out.”

John told the Post that he was taking the scathing reaction in stride, including one review that called his score “bland.”

“I can take it,” said John. “I’ve been called worse things than bland, believe me.”

Despite the downbeat notices, Lestat did hefty business in San Francisco, grossing more than £2 million during its six-week engagement at the Curran Theatre and breaking the theatre’s house record.

Lestat stars Hugh Panaro as Rice’s flamboyant neck biter. The cast also includes such New York theatre veterans as Carolee Carmello and Jim Stanek. One actor, Jack Noseworthy, who played the villainous Armand, departed before the San Francisco opening and was replaced by his understudy, Drew Sarich.

John wrote the music for Lestat and Taupin supplied the lyrics for the show, which has a book by Linda Woolverton. Robert Jess Roth is the director.

Lestat is John’s third Broadway musical, following his success with Aida and The Lion King.

The pop star also contributed the music to the current London hit, Billy Elliot.

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