With sultry, leather-clad vamp(ire)s strutting through rollicking cover versions of famous tunes, Hollywood and Vamp (which opened last night in Hollywood’s The Bourbon Room) may sound like a rock-and-roll burlesque show, and to some extent it is; however, it is also a one-act dinner theatre prefaced by an open-world immersive experience before the cast hits the stage.
Featuring seasonally themed cocktails and up-close-and-personal interaction with the characters, Hollywood and Vamp is intended for adults, but it’s more suggestive than explicit, and fang is definitely in cheek. Halloween fans eager for something to do during the middle of the week should consider adding this to their calendar.
Hollywood and Vamp: Open World
After the Bourbon Room opens its doors for business at 8pm, the first hour of Hollywood and Vamp consists of an open-world experience in the bar upstairs. Most guests climb the steps, but a few lucky ones get an elevator ride with a vampire hostess, who offers hints of what to expect and whom to trust – or not trust.
Tethered by rubber restraints to wood pillars, female vamps in leather bikinis entice you to come within reach. One rude vampire pushes his way through the crowd, taking a nip from a member of human wait staff named Tasty. A vampire named Regan offers to spike your drink with a special ingredient. A caption for a display under glass blames the infamous Black Dahlia murder on the undead. A payphone plays a recorded messaging informing you that emergency services are out, and if your emergency involves vampires, you should run away. immediately.
Through all of this, the venue’s Vampire Queen – Theda Bara – moves and mingles, keeping her underlings in line, greeting her human guests, and making occasional pronouncements about their chance of surviving till morning. Yes, she is literally supposed to be the real-life silent film star (actual name: Theodosia Burr Goodman) who created the image of the onscreen vamp, and we can tell she’s the leader because, unlike her bikini-clad underlings, she wears skintight leather pants and bustier like Selene in the Underworld films). There’s even a clever reference to the fact that most of Theda Bara’s films were destroyed in a fire – which here is explained as a deliberate act committed to hide the fact that she remained ageless from year to year.
All of this is fun for a while, but the few incidents that occur are not enough to fill the entire hour. It turns out that at least some of them are laying groundwork for what will happen on stage, but that’s not apparent in the moment. Really, you could arrive fifteen minutes before showtime and not miss too much.
Also, the high volume of the recorded music blunts interactivity. It’s hard to hear what the characters are saying to you, and it’s hard for the actors to hear what you are saying to them. Consequently, what should be sinister close encounters can wind up being exchanges of “what was that?”
Hollywood and Vamp: Stage Show
When the action moves to the stage in the back room Hollywood and Vamp kicks into high gear. Riffing on an idea popularized in Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat, we’re told that vampires are the ultimate rock stars; Theda Bara and her underlings prove the point by blasting their way through cover versions of rock perennials such as Guns and Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” and David Bowie’s “Scary Monsters.”
Along the way, a story emerges. Regan, it turns out, had an ulterior motive with that ingredient he was adding to some of the cocktails during the open-world section of the show. He reveals that feeding from humans who imbibed the ingredient will have an unfortunate effect for vampires, destroying them when the sunrises. This leads to a frantic search for an antidote, which involves dragging various audience members on stage to find one with the right blood, and eventually the whole thing ends in a fiery climax that sends the show out with a bang.
It’s a lot of fun, but in the tradition of many rock operas, the drama is thin, the story serving largely to string together the songs, which give the show its real kick. The David Bowie-impersonator gave the best vocal performance; the others are more singing in character – the lyrics an extension of their dialogue, their musical performance an extension of their acting roles. The musical accompaniment – a combo of pre-record (drums and keyboards) and live (lead guitar and bass) – hits all the right notes (if you will pardon a lame pun).
Hollywood and Vamp: Creepy Cocktails & Food
As part of Hollywood and Vamp, the Bourbon Room is offering four seasonally themed cocktails: Staked Through the Heart (vodka, lime, and cranberry juice), Holy Water (rum, simple syrup, lime juice, Blue Curacao and soda), Up in Flames (Tequila, Triple Sec, spicy bitters, lime juice, and Tajin) and Daywalker (vodka and soda).
Our favorite is Staked Through the Heart, which strikes a nice balance – sweet enough to be appealing but not so much that it will put off those who prefer a stronger drink. We found the Holy Water slightly disappointing – not bad, just not our cup of blood.
Also recommended is the Daywalker, – not for its convention recipe but for the part it plays in the proceedings. The menu notes that this cocktail comes with a “surprise” – which turns out to be the special ingredient Regan is offering. Those who order this drink will be directed to him and receive some special attention….
Drinks are served in the bar up front and in the stage area, where dinner is also available during the show. We had a chili burger with Beyond meat substitute, which was absolutely excellent, as were the fries – so good we didn’t balk at the $20 price tag.
Hollywood and Vamp: Conclusion
Is Hollywood and Vamp worth the price of admission? Our best point of comparison is Vampirates at Pirates Dinner Adventure, a show with a similar format (preshow in the bar, followed by dinner in the theatre). For a smaller price tag, Pirates Dinner Adventure offers a more elaborate stage show, and dinner is included with admission. Sounds like a better deal, right?
However, the extra money at Hollywood and Vamp buys you the more intimate experience of a smaller venue, which offers opportunities for face-to-face encounters with the undead. So if you prefer interviewing vampires rather than observing them from a distance, Hollywood and Vamp is for you.
Hollywood and Vamp Rating
Hollywood and Vamp continues at the Bourbon Room on October 20, 26, and 27. Doors open at 8pm; stage show begins at 9pm. The address is 6356 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood 90028. $75 admission price includes access to the open world and stage show, plus a specialty cocktail. Proof of Covid vaccination is required. For more information visit hollywoodandvamp.com.