Thomas Borchert is one of the most successful musical actors in the German-speaking world. He is currently reprising his role as Vampire Count in the musical Dance of the Vampires. In the big interview, the musical star gives a glimpse behind the scenes and explains why vampires fascinate millions of people.
In addition, Thomas Borchert reveals what lessons he once learned from Thomas Fritsch and to what extent Roman Polanski inspired him in his prime role. In addition, the musical star gives tips for performances in front of an audience.
In the musical “Dance of the Vampires” you embodied the main role of the vampire count for a long time. Did Sir have role models?
Thomas Borchert: Basically, I’m not really into role models. I like to be inspired. Sometimes I’m even inspired by things that don’t really have anything to do with the subject. I absorb everything like a sponge through the gaze of the character I’m supposed to portray. What I don’t like doing is copying things from myself, because otherwise I run the risk of copying something from actor X or film Y.
I made an exception for “Tanz der Vampire” because that is the primary material from which the musical was created. In addition, Roman Polanski himself directed this musical. I was very fortunate to work with him personally on the role in Hamburg. It was a big highlight in my career to be able to work with such a great master!
How has the image of the vampire changed over time? So are there new facets when you return to “Dance of the Vampires”?
Borchert: I actually always discover new facets. That’s why the role never gets boring and I always enjoy playing it. However, I think it has more to do with my own development. Simply also because I have more and more life and stage experience. I can then reintroduce all of that into this role. I’m also a very intuitive actor and I try to empathize with a character. The goal is to be that character. The goal is to be that character on stage with skin and hair!
Many people probably associate Count Dracula with the term vampire count?
Borchert: Yes, Bram Stoker created the Ur-Dracula. Back then in his letter novel. By the way, a great book that I would recommend to everyone! Most of the people I talk to have never read the book and only know the films. But this book is really great!
Bram Stoker made this clever! As a foreword he wrote that everything he reports here actually happened! That hooks the reader in a certain way. He then wrote it in such a way that you have the feeling the whole time that this is exactly what is happening. You are close. You get sucked in because it’s told through the letters Jonathan Harker writes straight from Vampire Castle to his fiancée in London. You experience everything he experiences there directly! This novel marks the birth of Dracula! Bram Stoker cleverly modeled Vlad the Third, who actually existed. He was also called “Vlad the Impaler”. He got this nickname because he literally impaled his opponents on the battlefield after the fighting and allegedly drank their blood as a demonstration of his power and as a deterrent to his enemies. As I said, this is the origin of the vampire stories. The vampire theme was then expanded more and more through movies. Later, through the musical genre, a love story was added and Count Dracula is becoming more and more human. Many other and new stories have emerged from this prehistory.
Where do you think the great fascination with vampires in films and literature comes from?
Borchert: Well, on the one hand it has something mystical about it. Someone who lives indefinitely and can walk the earth as an undead has a certain fascination for us, since we know that our lives are finite! So what if we could also have an infinite life? And what price would we have to pay for it?
Then there are also much more profane things: the sexual and the erotic must not be forgotten. Especially considering that bite in the neck! And of course this unbridled! That was above all back then, when the novel was created socially much more intensively than today. This defying rules so that you can be between worlds and don’t have to follow any rules. A vampire knows no social conventions. Many people dream of this and ask themselves what one could do if one can do whatever one wants. Especially if you are also allowed to be impulsive in your behavior and can indulge in all your inner desires. It also has something animalistic about it, like an animal that just takes exactly what it wants!
Back to the musical genre: what is the biggest professional challenge for you?
Borchert: It’s a wonderful, but also a tough job, and of course there’s a lot of competition. In addition, you have to prove yourself again and again! To put it bluntly, one should remain an eternal student. You never stop learning and should always continue your education. This also includes staying fit.
You will have to audition, sing and dance again and again! Even if you’ve made a name for yourself in the business and have been in the business for decades, you’ll still be asked to reapply for a play. For the “average Joe”, it is as if you had to go to job interviews all the time and could never be sure that you had a good and secure job. On the one hand, this is very hard and on the other hand, it also keeps you flexible and awake!
Have you ever blacked out while performing?
Borchert: Haha yes. And of all things at the premiere of “Jekyll and Hyde”. I played the lead role there. At this premiere, as at every premiere, I was very excited. This excitement then led to the fact that I suddenly had a blackout right in the first big scene and I didn’t know how to continue lyrically. Then I saved myself with some gibberish and then improvised a bit of text until I finally got back on track and ended up back in the text. At that moment it felt like an awful eternity! But it was certainly only a few seconds of shock when that happened. But nonetheless, at such a moment on stage it’s a pure nightmare!
Do you struggle with stage fright before a performance?
Borchert: Yes, I have. However, there is always a big difference between premieres and normal performances. I’m incredibly nervous before premieres. And that’s despite the fact that I’ve been in this profession for 32 years and I’m constantly on stage. An older, well-known actor once whispered to me: “Thomas doesn’t think that the stage fright will ever get better. It’s only going to get worse.”
I then thought about what could be the reason. That’s probably because you raise your expectations the longer you’re on stage. You ask a lot of yourself and because you keep growing, you judge yourself harder and harder. You keep raising the bar yourself.
Who was the actor you were referring to?
Borchert: That was Thomas Fritsch. He has acted a lot in the theater, but also in television. His voice is very well known and distinctive. He did a lot of dubbing. For example as Scar from the Disney film “The Lion King”. A friend of mine played in a production with Thomas Fritsch and we sat together in a pub afterwards. That’s how we got talking.
I guess everyone has to perform in front of an audience at some point. What are your three tips for engaging rhetoric?
Borchert: It is always very important to connect with the audience! Energy is everything! We have to remind ourselves of this over and over again when we stand on a stage or a podium. Yes, even simply when someone has something important to tell people. I believe that because everything is energy, it is important that this energy flows. I always say that we have to “send”. If I don’t send something correctly, it can’t even arrive! How well something goes down with the viewer always depends on how well I’m broadcasting and how high the broadcasting capacity is. So that means I connect with the audience. That’s the first thing I have to do as soon as I step onto a stage. Even if I’m playing a role on stage and I’m involved in a story, I still have the level that I have an audience present. I want to draw this audience into this story! I can only do that by immersing myself in the story, acting my stage partners and broadcasting towards the audience at the same time, so that even a person in row 30 or 40 feels addressed.
And your third tip?
Borchert: Which is also very important and has already been said by Mozart: breaks are very important! After all, breaks are music too and they can have an uncanny power. However, if the timing of a pause isn’t right, it can also do the opposite, losing listeners in the process. But if we look at the story now: The really good speakers and also the people who were very powerful radiated a self-confident calm. A stillness in the way they speak and they have deliberately placed pauses. That means not just rattling off or reading a text, but making contact. If I look down at the lyrics too much, I can lose the audience fast! It’s incredibly important to have good timing and to dare to take exciting breaks.
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