Vampires Rock: Ghost Train – Review – York Grand Opera House

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vampires rock ghost train review york grand opera house 2017

Vampires Rock: Ghost Train – Review

York Grand Opera House, November 2016

by Roger Crow

“What the hell have I just seen?” asks my partner as the curtain descends on a post-Halloween mix of music, comedy and wafer-thin story.

We’ve long had different views on entertainment. I love that thrown-together, low budget grungy feel of production, as well as high end stage shows like Bat Out of Hell (which we saw earlier in the year in Manchester).

Rachel prefers the polished stage show, and during our half-way analysis of Vampires Rock: Ghost Train, we dissect what’s great and less great about the show. I’d known a little of what to expect after seeing Iconic earlier in the year, Steve Steinman’s other stage show paying homage to cult films. That was a much slicker production in places, but as enjoyable.

Of course amusement parks are meant to be cheaper, grungier and this show reflects that. I love the vocals, she’s not a fan. I like the Phoenix Nights-style feel of comedy. She doesn’t get it. But that’s the thing about humour. It’s always subjective.

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“Wealth of rock classics”

Okay, John Evans, Baron Von Rockula’s comedy stooge Bossley, looks like he’s escaped from a bad kid’s party, but he can belt out many a great track, so it’s not a bad trade-off. And when vampire hunter Van Halensing (or Van Halen-sing, who knows?) turns up, there’s no prizes for guessing who it is.

The ghost train analogy is apt. A scary, fun ride. I’d say it’s more like jumping on a mine car from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and holding on as it careers down a rickety track, picking up speed until we reach that finale. All the time it’s on the verge of coming off the rails. At times it seems to skip the track, or script completely.

The show takes a while to get going, but that’s true of many great stage productions. The weakest element is the story, or lack of it. Like Iconic, Vampires Rock: Ghost Train needs a more polished book or script to make the comedy fly. The groanworthy nods to classic rock songs won’t win any awards for subtlety, but while the script may need a bit of work, it’s great soaking up the wealth of rock classics.

By the finale, everyone is on their feet clapping and singing along, and the fact the theatre is packed is testament to the show’s enduring success in all its incarnations.

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“Glorious fun”

Like a certain other pantomime that rocks up in York every year, this has that repeat factor which fans keep coming back for more. It’s pure panto, mixed with rock opera, jukebox musical, end of the pier show and for me at least, it’s glorious fun.

It might not have the multi-million dollar budget of Jim Steinman’s Bat Out Of Hell stage show, but it has the same spirit, and as I have a stupid grin for most of the show, it definitely ticks a lot of boxes.

Dancers and vocalists Hayley Russell, Penny Jones and Victoria Jenkins do a terrific job, and nice to hear a different take on that well worn classic ‘Holding Out For A Hero’. By the time Stars in Their Eyes veteran Steve plays out with his terrific take on ‘Bat Out of Hell’, I’m more than happy we made the trip.

On a very grey, dull November night, this is just the splash of (blood-soaked) colour I need to ease my autumn blues. And full marks to the band who belt out the string of ’iconic’ tracks.

The show returns to York in 2018, but also plays Hull at the start of the year. I can think of worse ways to get over one of the most depressing months on the calendar. If you don’t emerge from the theatre with a big stupid grin, get someone to check your pulse as you might be dead.

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