I had no idea vampires had infiltrated Broadway until I saw an advertisement for the Holland Civic Theatre’s teen production of Dracula, the Musical?
From what I can tell, Dracula, the Musical (without the question mark) reimagines Bram Stoker’s novel with the same characters, similar plot and songs like, “Please Don’t Make Me Love You” and “Fresh Blood.” Dracula, the Musical? is the shorter, kid-friendly version with characters like Bubu Padoop and songs like, “Vocational Reflection” and “I’d Make a Horrid Husband.”
An usher points me to my seat, and I’m relieved to find Row B is, indeed, the second row. The Holland Civic Theatre is an intimate venue with room to seat fifty people or so, and one of my friends and I had gone to see a teen production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It a few years ago, only to discover Row C was the first row with a good three yards to the stage—which can only mean one thing.
I HATE it when performers walk into the audience.
Especially that night.
Five, six, seven eight … and all of a sudden, a fourteen-year-old boy was pelvic thrusting in my face.
It was uncomfortable.
Dracula, the Musical? already gets at least one star because Act One begins on stage in the home of Dr. Sam Seward and his wife Sophia. In line with Stoker’s novel, Dr. Seward is a psychiatrist; his home doubles as a clinic for his patients. The first scene is Nelly Norton, the housemaid, and a cast of “lunatics / villagers,” who are, at the moment, lunatics performing the number “We’re Having a Party.”
Even though Row B is the second row, I’m still within two yards of the stage. The dance moves downstage—and I mean DOWNSTAGE—and I make awkward eye contact with a girl.
Mina, the Seward’s daughter, is still engaged to Jonathan Harker, but he doesn’t appear on stage until—spoiler alert—the last scene. Rather than Lucy, Bubu Padoop is Mina’s fun and flirtatious, gotta-find-me-a-husband-quick best friend. Lucy doesn’t exist in this musical. Sorry, Lucy.
As it turns out, the lunatics are not having a party; the Seward’s are having a party.
The Seward’s have invited Count Dracula over for dinner.
Count Dracula doesn’t disappoint. He appears in a cheap-fabric tux and flowing silk cape, with his hair slicked back and face painted white with black accent shadows. Throughout the performance, I can understand eighty percent of what he says and forty percent of what he sings because, well … because of his teeth.
They are very pointy.
I feel bad for this boy who has to perform with fangs. He does a really fantastic job.
Anyway, the plot: Dracula wants to transform Mina into his vampire bride. It takes only three bites, but he is deterred time and time again by others in the house—largely by the lunatic Boris Renfield and his spontaneous, musical travelogues. Dr. Van Helsing also plays a major role by alerting the household of Dracula’s nature, intentions, and how to bring him to his bitter end—with, of course, a wooden stake.
Not an easy feat.
At one point during Act One, Dracula transforms into a man in a black bodysuit with a bat hand puppet. During intermission, I discover “The Bat” in the cast list. This excites me for his appearances later in the show.
I suspect this actor is also the one responsible for dragging the curtain open and close.
During Act Two, he closes the curtain for a set change. The music’s tempo quickens, and I begin thinking it would really suck to be Dracula because I can tell the plot is very close to his demise.
But then I get concerned for me.
I hear voices coming from behind me.
The “lunatics / villagers” are now villagers, and they’re walking down the aisle, carrying flashlights with tissue paper tiered as flames.
I make eye contact with the exact same girl as before, and SHE LURCHES AT ME.
Dracula is doomed.
Indeed, his end is painstaking, and not only for his death. All major characters receive the happy ending he wanted for himself: a companion. Much like Stoker’s novel, Dracula, the Musical? suggests a portrait of what is good, and what is evil.
The Holland Civic Theatre’s production of Dracula, the Musical? was entertaining and thrilling. The costumes were on-point; the humor, perfectly-timed; the cast, talented. They had me on the edge of my seat the entire time—except for when they walked too close to the edge of the stage, or into the audience.