Vampires Rock- Ghost Train is a musical that is the brainchild of Steve Steinman. The plot follows the usual Vampire story of Vampire searching for bride, Vampire biting bride, Bride becoming undead wife for eternity. Now there is nothing new in the plot, to be honest the classic Vampire story has been done to death.
However, the brilliance of Vampires Rock- Ghost Train, is that they use the story has a tongue in cheek premise to incorporate some classic rock anthems. Which is why this stage production is still successful after all these years (Egigs originally reviewed the show in 2004).
Vampires Rock- Ghost Train returned to Mansfield Palace theatre, and as is customary with fans of the show, they had turned up in Vampire-esque style costumes. This show attracts a cult following, if you think of the dedicated fans who love the Rocky Horror show and the lengths their fans go to when watching it live, then you will have some idea about the audience who attend Vampires Rock.
In the past Vampires Rock, has had some harsh critics, some even going as far to say that they aren’t too sure what this should be categorised as, is it Is it a musical? Or a rock concert? Or an adult Halloween panto? Clearly it would be easier for critics to write reviews if Vampires Rock slotted nicely into one of those categories. However, I prefer to not worry myself about such trivial matters. For me the question should be is it enjoyable, is it good or bad?
The only concern I did have is how much longevity can there be in a stage show like this? This was my 13th year of reviewing this show and as I took my seat, I started to wonder if this would be the night when I would walk away feeling bored and have fallen out of love with Vampires Rock? Thankfully Steve Steinman tries to rewrite the script every year to try and keep it topical (this year it was references to Donald Trump), he also changes the setlist in a very subtle way so that there is enough of a refreshing change for the loyal fans who come back year after year, but also keeping it lively for any newbies that join the Vampires Rock fans.
This latest incarnation of Vampires Rock uses a disused fairground has its backdrop because the old club (Club Live and Let Die) that Baron Von Rockula used to live at burnt down. Baron Von Rockula and his undead assistants try to lure victims onto the rides in the hope of finding a new bride.
As always, the Barons assistant Bosley the Janitor (played by John Evans) is belittled and not allowed to sing. Luckily, there is a villain by the name of Van Halen Helsing, the Vampire hunter who is out to try and kill Baron Von Rockula. Maybe if the evil Baron dies then Bosley might have an opportunity to sing?
Each scene is designed to link in with a classic rock anthem or rock ballad, so at the point that Baron Von Rockula has found a new bride, as it leads up to the act of biting her and making her his new wife, they start to sing a cover of Cutting Crews “I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight” again its these little touches that put a big smile on your face (partly due to the cheesiness of the link into the song, but also because Steve and the cast are so talented at bringing the songs to life).
The difference between this and most other musicals is that this show has been deliberately written for it to be light hearted, even Steve himself acknowledges the distinction between this and serious play such as phantom of the opera. During one scene, which was very tongue in cheek, Baron Von Rockula has just been shot through the heart and has he was over dramatically dying, Steve broke character and just said “I bet Andrew Lloyd Webber is shaking in his boots” all said in good humour.
It is important to make a clear distinction between the storyline being firmly tongue in cheek, and the music which is taken seriously, as Steve and the cast entertain the fans with rock classics such as “Thunderstruck”, “Don’t Stop Believing”, “Sweet Child O’Mine”, “Poison”, “Jump” and of course the epic “Bat Out of Hell”. If you don’t recognise any of those classics then this show is probably not for you, however if you like your rock music then you won’t go far wrong with this show.
It’s not only the music that makes this come to life, it is the stage production with pyros and all the bells and whistles which really makes the show stand out.
Over the years, Steve Steinman has changed the line-up of musicians, this latest reincarnation of the band which now includes Peter Jean (Drums), Niro Knox (Guitar), Jamie Hiscox (Lead Guitar), Mary Garner (Bass) and Andy Preston (Keyboards) are all experts on their chosen instruments and their on-stage chemistry was infectious, they gave the impression that they enjoyed every minute of being on stage.
The show includes highly skilled dancers who play the part of female Vampires. Penny Jones and Victoria Jenkins are certainly able to keep the attention of the fans, by fire eating or dancing whilst the main characters either go off stage for a quick costume change or to get a prop.
The Barons wife Roxy Honey Box (Hayley Russell) can belt out the rock anthems in a manner which supports and adds to the quality of Steve Steinmans vocals. Hayley is also able to hold centre stage as a soloist, especially when she performs an incredible rendition of Bonnie Tylers “Holding Out for a Hero”.
If I had to be critical about the show, the start of the second half when the band opened with the Guns N Roses stadium anthem “Paradise City” it would have been great to see the band rather than playing it whilst hid behind the stage backdrop. Apart from that little gripe, once again it was another show that left you feeling like you had got your money’s worth.
Once again Vampires Rock left the fans with a Cheshire cat grin on their faces and a feeling that the show is great value for money.
The musicians from Vampires Rock are launching a new musical called Iconic, with songs taken from classic films. If it is half as good as Vampires Rock, then it will be worth buying tickets for. Opening in Mansfield on March 24th.