About This Blog

I really like theatre, and I like writing and talking about it.

This blog is mostly about my relationship with theatre, the moments that make me fall in love with this art form, and the times when we don't always get along.

I'll be writing about things that I like, that I think are good and interesting and want to share. I will probably also write about things that I don't quite get, or think are wierd. I may also write about things that aren't theatre, strictly speaking, because it's my blog and I can.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


It's a peculiar issue with Frank Wildhorn musicals; they typically open to poor critical reception, but are popular with fans and run for years, but still close losing money in the end. Jekyll & Hyde and The Scarlet Pimpernel in particular have continued to be extremely popular in regional theaters. He has a knack for yearning power ballads, like Dance of the Vampire's Jim Steinman, and tends to write musicals based on classic literature (in addition to Jekyll & Hyde and Pimpernel, his works include versions of The Count of Monte Cristo and Cyrano DeBergerac). So Dracula fits well within his repetoire.

Dracula, however, wasn't as popular with audiences as some of his other work, and closed after only 157 performances. The show received much publicity for its spectacular special effects--such as Dracula crawling head-first down the walls, and a brief nude scene from one of the female leads. The main complaints critics had about the show was that it was lacking in emotion and tension, the lyrics were rather pedestrian, and the plot was fairly incomprehensible to anyone who wasn't completely familiar with the novel. They weren't impressed with the music, either.

So the show closed on Broadway, but after some revisions went on to greater success in ...stop me if this sounds familiar...Austria and Germany!

I managed to find the German cast album on iTunes, and I actually really like a lot of the songs. It looked like they fixed a lot of the things that weren't working about the Broadway production, but I can see why people had issues with the story. For example, Dracula comes to London and starts seducing Lucy, but he really has big plans for her best friend and Jonathan Harker's fiancee, Mina. He has one little voice-over of Mina hearing him speaking in her mind, and suddenly they're singing about how deep their love is, and how Mina is so conflicted about marrying Jonathan.

On YouTube, I found that someone posted an entire TV recording of the Austrian production in chunks. There's no subtitles, but my German is good enough that I was able to keep up. I really like the performers, but it has some weird staging issues. There's a living room unit at the front of the stage with a door and couch stage right, and a desk and stair unit far right. They do a lot of split-stage stuff with action going on in the front, and then you see the graveyard or Dracula's castle behind them (Check out a clip of  the love duet "Whitby Bay" below to see what I mean.) The problem is, that living room set is always there, even when nothing's going on in the foreground. And then there's the most uncomfortable sex scene I've ever witnessed in a musical, when Dracula's brides seduce Jonathan at 08:00  below:

I was confused by Jonathan's anachronistic wife-beater style undershirt; then I understood when I realized that the brides have to tear it off him every night!

One of the things I think they did get right in this story is the seduction and transformation of Lucy. Caroline Vasicek plays the role really well, and has a youthful look that makes her seduction even creepier. Thomas Borchert plays Dracula, and I like him a lot. He's got a great voice and stage presence; he's really minimal in the way he plays the character, which I think actually makes him more captivating. I do have a bit of an issue with the design, though; he doesn't really look vampiric at all, and also Lucy's burial costume is a pretty blatant rip-off of the Francis Ford Coppola film.

Anyway, watch these two videos, because this was my favorite part of the show. In the first video, Lucy has fallen ill, but secretly invites Dracula in ("come and satisfy your thirst on me"). In the second video, Arthur comes to wake her, but she attacks him. Vampire expect Van Helsing subdues her, and she dies. After a brief scene in the graveyard, Dracula and Mina sing of their plans to "go drinking" together, while Van Helsing and Co. plan to stop them.

So while there are a lot of things I like about this show, I can see the story problems than held it back. Despite its success in Austria, I don't think this staging entirely overcame those problems, although it toned down the over-the-top effects for a more even presentation.

EDIT: I found a promotional clip of actual footage from the Broadway version, although it doesn't show much:

1 comment:

  1. Nice post! You can pretty much count on a vampire story to bring the awkwardness at any time, hehe.