Preview: Vampires Rock

After eight Top 40 singles, 20 albums, ten feature films, hundreds of television shows and countless stage roles, Toyah Willcox is joining the British tour of Steve Steinman’s Vampires Rock in the special guest role of the Devil Queen. 

On Thursday, she returns to York, where previously she played Kate in Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew at the Theatre Royal in August 1990, Peter Pan at the Grand Opera House in February 1994 (a year when she also performed at Fibbers), and the title role in Calamity Jane in October 2002, again at the Grand Opera House. 

She has been a punk, she has played Puck, she has presented Songs Of Praise and written a book about having a facelift. Now, at 50, she is starring in a musical spoof cum fantasy concert set in the year 2030 in a New York City where the undead are among us and livelier than ever, especially Steve Steinman’s evil, club-owning, 2,000-year-old Baron Von Rockula. Cue music from Meat Loaf, Queen, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones and Guns N Roses, and Toyah in hot red.

Charles Hutchinson meets the new devil woman ahead of next week’s show. 

Toyah, what possessed you to turn evil for a 44-date tour of Vampires Rock? 

“Steve’s been trying to get me into the show for a couple of years, but I just felt I couldn’t give the time to it at the time. 

“But Steve works like no one else and the important thing about him is that’s he’s a successful independent producer, and he kept asking, and eventually I said I could do 20 dates – and he came back with a list of 44! I said, ‘Okay, okay, I’ll do 44’, and I’m glad I did because, excuse the pun, it’s an absolute scream. 

“My husband [Robert Fripp] saw the show and said this band could blow him off stage, and he’s one of the top ten guitarists in the world.” 

Why has Vampires Rock become such a hit? 

“It seems a ridiculously slight show but it works because it is so clever in that it’s a basic story that we all know so well, as Baron Von Rockula wants to get rid of his 2,000-year-old wife for a younger model. 

“There’s this incredible warmth from the audience because there’s this fine balance between parody and reverence, and that’s where it’s like The Rocky Horror Show: they came long and they’re half the show.” 

Describe your character, the Devil Queen. 

“She’s vile! She’s just pure evil. She’s very glamorous and, for me, she’s the true vampire in the show because she never eases up, whereas Steve is very funny in how he works his character. Mine is just death, death, death, and she’s horrible to everyone.” 

How does this show compare with others you have appeared in? 

“This is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever done. I hadn’t seen the show before I agreed to do it, but I did know it had a cult status and it has far more credibility than any other show like this. 

“I think what Steve has now done is create a star product where a star name can come in, like with The Rocky Horror Show. This show is the future of rock’n’roll, creating conceptual shows such as Mamma Mia!. It keeps rock’n’roll going in a new way.” 

Did you choose your red-hot latex costumes for the show? 

“In the past 12 months, in the lead-up to my new album In The Court Of The Crimson Queen and the single Latex Messiah, I’ve been creating Toyah TV on MySpace – which has already had 35,000 hits – and Steve [Steinman] saw all the costumes I’d created for Toyah TV and said, ‘Could we lift them into Vampires Rock’?. So we have.” 

What songs do you sing in Vampires Rock? Do any of your old hits sneak in? 

“I open with a song off my new album, Lesser God, then I go into Twisted Sister’s Burn In Hell…School’s Out, Rebel Yell, Kiss’s God Gave Rock’n’Roll To You, Bon Jovi’s Lay Your Hands On Me, the Osbournes’ Changes, and Guns N Roses’ Sweet Child O’Mine. Fantastic!” 

What happens next for you and Vampires Rock?

“We go into the West End for a week from February 28, in the Shaw Theatre, and that’s already been a success because we have backers coming that week with a view to taking the show to Las Vegas. 

“Then we come back to Retford [where the show’s rehearsals are held] next September to start another 44 shows, and we have TV companies lining up to do a documentary if the show goes to Vegas.” 

The York Press
November 2008