Theatre Review: ‘Dracula’ by Lancaster Regional Players at Lancaster Opera House

Sometimes, a playwright will adapt a novel into a script that just is too large to condense into a story that an audience will be able to understand in two and a half hours. The author of the novel has time to develop their characters and can allow for the story to build. A playwright has to tell a story, and tell it fast to keep the audience on their side. Adapting a story form a novel, especially a long novel, is a very tedious process and quite frankly, is a process that is not usually done well. Steven Deitz’s ‘Dracula’ has that problem. It is a heartless adaptation of a dark novel from the 1800’s.

. . . if you are a fan of the Bram Stoker novel, and are looking for a great night out during this Halloween season, go see this show!

Lancaster Regional Players takes on the monumental feat of mounting the Deitz version of ‘Dracula’ – the story that has made it’s mark on popular culture with countless film versions and stage adaptations. Telling the tale of the aristocrat, Count Dracula, as he moves to London and slowly begins taking control of helpless victims who each have what he was needs. . .their blood. This version is one of the best stage adaptations of the Bram Stoker novel, yet it still leaves large holes in the story that are confusing if you are not fully familiar with the tale. This, of-course, is not the fault of Lancaster Regional Players, as they must perform the script as written, but it still should be said that if you find yourself, lost at certain points of the story, you are not alone.

Directors David Hall and Joel Murphy take on this challenge, and make some great artistic choices for this production that make the weak script watchable. The set is one of the most intriguing and fascinating ones that I have seen in a long time. It is extremely versatile and it keeps the audience’s interest, even when Dietz’s script does not. The art design of the set is very impressive and the cast interaction with the set is one that positively assists in telling this story.

It is interesting to note that Hall and Murphy enlist the use of background actors to assist in scene changes, and while they were a little clunky during the opening night performance, the thought behind them is admirable. Opening night is always a nervous time, so I can only imagine that these will be smoother as the show continues it’s run.

Jamie Nablo (Lucy) and Kara Lynn Harris (Mina) take on the leading lady roles and play them very well with admirable chemistry. Dietz does not give these roles very much to work with in the area of three-dimensionality, but Nablo and Harris bring great artistic choices to their parts and work with what the script gives them.

Trevor Dugan does a nice job playing Dr. Seward in this show. Dugan is a great character actor and takes on the challenge of playing the manager of an asylum and does so very well. When it comes to being over taken by Dracula himself, Dugan takes some unique artistic risks but his portrayal is enjoyable overall.

Christopher Fire takes on the title character in this piece, and is very intimidating while doing so.  He brings a feminine sex appeal to the role that caused a few audience members to coo in giddy excitement. He performs well as the creepy aristocrat. 

Overall, this production has some very positive pieces that make it work, but the script is just difficult to stay interested in. It’s a long show, and it feels long. That being said, if you are a fan of the Bram Stoker novel, and are looking for a great night out during this Halloween season, go see this show!

Running Time: 2 Hours 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

“Dracula” runs until October 15, 2017, is produced by Lancaster Regional Players, and is presented at Lancaster Opera House in Lancaster. For more information, click here.

Lancaster Regional Players Brings ‘Dracula’ Back To Life

For the literary gurus out there, one horror novel stands the test of time when it comes to thrilling your mind and that is Bram Stokers’ 1897 story called ‘Dracula.’ This novel, written as letters and diary entries, tells the story of the infamous aristocrat as he pines for youthful life and. . .blood. The story has been adapted into several films, and live plays, and the title character was made famous by Bela Lugosi, who portrayed Dracula, numerous times, both on Broadway and in the film directed by Tod Browning.

“I had always wanted to do Dracula,” says David Hall, who will be co-directing the Steven Deitz adaptation for Lancaster Regional Players, “I had been talking back and forth between the executive director of the Lancaster Opera House, and we had a few shows in mind, and finally, we were able to settle on this version of the story.”

Along with Hall, Joel Murphy co-directs this retelling of the classic tale. “David had approached me in 2015 with the idea to pitch the show,” says Murphy, “ he wanted to get a bunch of artists together to create the visual effects needed for it. I was really intrigued by this idea.”

“I think most people think of Bela Lugosi when they think of Dracula, and I wanted to try something different,” says Hall, who is known for taking classic shows and putting unique spins on them, “I always felt that the character was a little hokey when portrayed and that adds a campy feeling to the story that turned me off.”

There are countless versions of “Dracula” available for licensing rights, but choosing the right version is important to the director’s vision and design. “I liked the Dietz version the most because there was better character development,” says Hall.

“The story starts earlier, and both of our leading ladies are still alive,” adds Murphy.

The novel, in which the show is based, is very detailed and playwrights sometimes need to take liberties to condense the exposition. Usually, playwrights will not include all the characters from the novel because it can get a little confusing when trying to create a two hour stage play. In this version, Mina, and Lucy, are both still alive. Typically, one is not.

“I always loved ‘Dracula’ and I’ve always thought that the story was very sexual, and that the character was very intriguing,” says Hall,” You root for him. And you have to remember that he didn’t ask to be a vampire, he became one.

Lancaster Regional Players casts actors of all experience types in their productions. “The cast really stepped it up a notch. We have many different actors at different points in their careers and I think that they all intimated each other to be the best that they each can be,” laughs Murphy.

In modern times where vampires are mainstream, Murphy believes that the show has the potential to wrangle in an audience who will completely appreciate it. “We have an opportunity to expose a new generation to the story, who isn’t as familiar with it, and make it memorable,” says Murphy.

“Dracula” opens on October 6, 2017, is produced by Lancaster Regional Players, and is presented at the Lancaster Opera House. For more information, click here.

Theatre Review: ‘Dracula’ at The Shaw Festival

Cherissa Richards and Allan Louis in ‘Dracuala’ at The Shaw Festival. Photo by David Cooper

Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, “Dracula” has made its mark on popular culture over the last century. What was once considered to be a dime a dozen horror novel, has turned into a phenomenon that continues to entertain and scare audiences. Numerous film and stage adaptations have been developed and mounted based on the tale of the aristocratic vampire who manipulates those around him to quench his bloody desires.

 . . . visually stunning. . .

If you have ever read the book, you know that Stoker takes his time to tell his story. That is my nice way of saying that it is very long. It is lengthy, and detailed, and takes a while to get cooking. It is definitely a novel of it’s time. Does it stand up to modern day audiences, yes. It is still an entertaining story, but does it work well on the stage? Not so much.

The Shaw Festival’s mounting of Liz Lockhead’s 1985 adaptation is one that takes many liberties in assuming that the audience knows what is happening and takes many liberties in assuming that we are all still paying attention during it’s slow build. Lockhead’s adaptation is a streamlining of Stoker’s plot points, but leaves holes in the details of the story, and leaves the audience scratching their heads as to what is happening. If I had not read the novel, I would have been incredibly lost. That being said, these script issues are not the fault of The Shaw production. They are that of the playwright. 

Director Eda Holmes mounts a visually stunning production that excites the eye and sends shivers down your spine, thanks in part to the original music and sound effects by John Gzowski. Michael Gianfrancesco’s designs and aesthetics for this production are fantastic. The costumes are absolutely beautiful and the simple minimalistic set, with the key set pieces, really aid in telling of this chilling story. The hanging chain curtain that acts as a doorway is one of the most exciting pieces of set design that I have seen in a long time. The sound that the chains make as they drag across the stage is a successful mechanism for creating an eerie feeling that sets the tone for the atmosphere of the story.

The casting for this show is well done. Allan Louis as the title character of this piece is a wonderful choice for the creepy Hungarian aristocrat. He possesses a presence on the stage that is commanding yet friendly. He gets a great deal of laughs with his delivery and he takes the role of Dracula and makes it his own. You love to hate him and your attention is always heightened when he appears on stage. Louis does not disappoint.

Martin Happer’s performance of Dr. Seward is well done. He plays the confused doctor, searching for answers, well. When it comes to chemistry with love interest Lucy, played by Cherissa Richards, there does not seem to be much. The interesting thing about this problem is that I do not believe that it is the fault of the actors that the chemistry barely exists, I just believe that the script does not allow for it to actually come across. Both Happer and Richards play their parts well, but when it comes to being a believable couple, it falls flat.

Richards is fun to watch because her portrayal of Lucy is one that holds true all the innocence and childhood charm that is expected in the character. Richards also bares all on stage, literally, which in and of itself is a commitment to the role and to the production. 

Steven Sutcliffe does well as Dr. Van Helsing. He plays the role with a very interesting approach. At first I was not convinced of his performance, but he quickly grew on me. Again, Sutcliffe works with what the script gives him. We are told that he understands the vampires, and how they work, but what we are not really given a taste of his previous encounters and why he knows what he knows. The script takes for granted that the audience understands his past, and that I feel to be unfair. Sutcliffe is a welcomed addition to this cast.

The rest of this cast does well filling in the story as needed and assists in creating a visually stunning piece of theatre. That all being said, exposition issues with the script and the length of the show proved to be an issue in this production. The show, which clocks in at three hours, is just not exciting enough to captivate the contemporary theatergoer.

Running Time: 3 Hours, including a 15 minute intermission.

Advisory: Frontal Nudity

“Dracula” runs until October 14, 2017 and is presented as part of The Shaw Festival in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Canada. For more information, click here.