Jim Steinman is nothing if not versatile. Though best known as a rock and pop composer and producer of "power ballads," he's adept at arranging, has been a solo-artist and, a bit ahead of the trend, formed an all-girl band. His numerous worldwide mega-hits include "Bat Out of Hell" and "Dead Ringer" with Meat Loaf, "Falling Into You" with Celine Dion, "Making Love Out of Nothing At All" for Air Supply, "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" (which has found a natural fit in Dance of the Vampires), and "Faster Than the Second Speed of Night" for Bonnie Tyler.

He's also written for such diverse artists as Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow and composed songs for an occasional film, such as "Footloose" and "The Shadow." So what made him take the gigantic leap from pop and rock to "Broadway"?

It's not a leap at all. He's come back where he started. Probably the best kept secret about Steinman is that he began composing music for theater in the early 70s as a protege of the late Joe Papp. While at Amherst in Massachusetts, he penned lyrics, music and book and starred in The Dream Engine. Papp happened to catch the show and was impressed. He went backstage at intermission and made a deal to buy the rights. His idea was to present the musical in his New York Shakespeare Festival outdoor venue, Central Park's Delacorte Theater. The city nixed that plan when some officials got an advance peek and came down hard. Papp was advised that the musical was "far too raunchy, sexually explicit and violent to be performed in an open public place owned by the city."

Papp then commissioned Steinman to collaborate with Michael Weller (who later wrote the screenplays for "Hair" and the film adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's sprawling epic of America in the early 1900s, "Ragtime." The result was the 1974's "More Than You Deserve."

Steinman said one reason he was attracted to Dance of the Vampires was because "I'm a big fan of horror movies, especially those about vampires. I worked on a musical version of Nosferatu [the German silent film by F.W. Murnau], which I consider the greatest vampire movie ever. I always thought vampires were the perfect subject for a musical or opera."
He asks, "Did I mention I've often suspected I'm a vampire?"
"A bit of a joke," he laughs. "But unless I absolutely have to do something during the day, my normal sleep time is always during daylight."

Steinman reports he is a huge Polanski fan. "I saw `The Fearless Vampire Killers...' when it came out. I loved `Chinatown.' `Repulsion' and `Rosemary's Baby" are easily two of the most brilliant, stylish, innovative and stunningly realized horror films made. So I was excited about the chance to work with such major talents in a great theater and on a project about vampires."

But there was a problem once in Vienna. "I don't speak German," he explained, "and didn't have a clue what the singers were singing or what the actors where saying.
It all sounded great, though. And working in Vienna, the music capital of the world, was a great adventure. I grew up listening to rock and classical. From the time I was five, Wagner was my hero. I was delighted when the Los Angeles Times critic described me as `the Richard Wagner of rock.' I collected opera recordings conducted by Solti, Von Karajan or Bohm with the Vienna Philharmonic, the greatest orchestra in the universe, but "I was a rock 'n' roll fanatic. The Beatles were my world."

The composer, in his early 50s, said that once he was introduced to musical theater, he saw and heard everything he could from Gilbert & Sullivan to Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Loewe. Naturally, I've been influenced by my idols."

Steinman feels that opera, classical music, rock 'n' roll and stage music are all the same. "It's all art, all theater, all show business, all music. In the end, there shouldn't be boundaries, fences, labels or limits. It should be obvious to any enlightened person that it's valid to place Salome next to West Side Story next to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. They all serve the same function: to amplify and clarify existence. They inspire and make the heart beat faster. And the soul richer!"


Key Subjects: 
Jim Steinman, Dance of the Vampires, Roman Polanski, The Dream Engine, Joseph Papp
Ellis Nassour
Writer Bio: 
Ellis Nassour contributes entertainment features here and abroad. He is the author of "Rock Opera: the Creation of Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline," and an associate editor and a contributing writer (film, music, theater) to Oxford University Press' American National Biography (1999).
November 2002
Composer Jim Steinman Readies Vampires for Broadway