Amazing Singers in the Haunting Story of Dracula
Victoria Playhouse in Petrolia has built a reputation of gathering together excellent singers and creating very popular musical revues. But with the opening of Dracula – A Chamber Musical, the cast now on stage is arguably the best singing voices ever heard in Petrolia. The two Davids, co-artistic directors at VPP, have used their influence to collect the best singers to present this story of love, a vampire and the undead. David Hogan directs the show, while David Rogers has the lead role of Dracula.
This musical was developed and written by Canadians Richard Ouzounian (former theatre critic at The Toronto Star) and Marek Norman (well-known composer, actor, and producer) in 1997, exactly 100 years after Bram Stoker wrote his famous Gothic novel Dracula. It was performed at Stratford Festival to great acclaim in 1999.
It was exciting to have the writer Richard Ouzounian present on opening night in Petrolia. Ouzounian was invited by Hogan to speak before the show. There have been various plays, spoofs and musicals based on Bram Stoker’s original Dracula. But according to Ouzounian, this version is closest to the novel.
A young lawyer, Jonathan (Christopher Dunham), travels from England to Transylvania to finalize Count Dracula’s (David Rogers) purchase of a home in England. After seeing a photo of Jonathan’s fiancée Mina (Alyssa Curto) and her friend Lucy (Kaleigh Gorka), Dracula longs for the women and imprisons Johnathan in his castle. Eventually Jonathan escapes. He sends for his fiancée Mina, and they marry. Lucy accepts the marriage proposal of Jonathan’s friend Dr. Jack Seward (Andrew Scanlon) but their happiness is destroyed by the arrival of the mentally unbalanced Renfield (Jay T. Schramek), who warns that Dracula is coming. Lucy is soon seduced and bitten by Dracula. As she grows weak, Dr. Seward sends for Dr. Van Helsing (Curtis Sullivan). Van Helsing recognizes Lucy’s illness as a vampire attack but it is too late; she dies and then rises from the dead. Van Helsing, Jonathan and Dr. Seward reluctantly drive a stake through her heart. Dracula then goes after Mina.
In Act II, (spoiler alert) Mina reads Jonathan’s account of his captivity and vows to remain at his side regardless of what the evil Dracula may do to separate them. Nevertheless, Dracula seduces and attacks her. Renfield, in a lucid moment, and Mina promise each other to resist Dracula. But Dracula finds them and kills Renfield for betraying him. Van Helsing, Dr. Seward and Jonathan finally find Mina, and just before dawn, they destroy Dracula, freeing Mina.
The score is filled with powerful songs – love songs to give comfort, and chilling songs that frighten. David Rogers is suitably terrifying and cold as Dracula, but sings with the rich voice his audience loves. The two female roles are sung with perfection by Curto and Gorka. Schramek plays the crazed Renfield well, and also gives us his moment of clarity in a later song. Dunham, Scanlon and Sullivan all perform with rich, full voices that complement the score.
The story of Dracula is so melodramatic that it could go over the top and become silly. Thankfully, this production is so well performed, there is no hint of mockery.
Since it’s a seldom produced musical, I recommend you hurry to Petrolia to hear these voices singing the commanding score. Those who enjoy powerful voices, both solo and in choruses, will appreciate this haunting tale.
Dracula continues at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until October 27. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 or visit www.thevpp.ca for tickets.
Photo: Dracula at VPP. Photo by Diane O’Dell.
Dracula – A Chamber Musical
Book and Lyrics by Richard Ouzounian
Music and Orchestrations by Marek Norman
Directed by David Hogan
Musical Direction by Mark Payne
Choreographer/Assistant Director Kerry Gage
Performed by David Rogers, Alyssa Curto, Christopher Dunham, Kaleigh Gorka, Andrew Scanlon, Jay T. Schramek, Curtis Sullivan.
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
October 15 to 27, 2019
Reviewed by Mary Alderson