Richard Ouzounian and Marek Norman's vampire tuner, which ran for six months at Canada's Stratford Festival in 1999, is unlikely to repeat such success in the U.S., at least in the unfortunate production director Barry Ivan has provided for the big in-the-round North Shore Music Theater in Beverly, Mass.
Richard Ouzounian and Marek Norman’s vampire tuner, which ran for six months at Canada’s Stratford Festival in 1999, is unlikely to repeat such success in the U.S., at least in the unfortunate production director Barry Ivan has provided for the big in-the-round North Shore Music Theater in Beverly, Mass. The premiere production must have had more style and subtlety, necessary elements Ivan has completely bypassed as he continually overplays the plot’s Victorian gothic hokiness. This may not be the ideal musical adaptation of the 1897 Bram Stoker novel –it certainly isn’t the only one — but it deserves better treatment.
Ouzounian, who wrote the book and lyrics, has served as a.d. of five Canadian theaters. He was an associate director of the Stratford festival, and was Harold Prince’s assistant on the original Toronto production of “The Phantom of the Opera.” He is currently the Toronto Star’s theater critic and also writes for Daily Variety. Music and orchestrations are by Canadian musician-performer-producer Norman, who has written two other musicals with Ouzounian.
Their contributions to the show are thoroughly professional without being able to shake off the influence of Webber in “Phantom” mode. The score is flawed by sameness; the most effective song, sung by this production’s most audience-pleasing character and performer, is “Come Into My Parlor Said the Spider to the Fly,” performed by the asylum-incarcerated fly-eater Renfield (Eddie Korbich).
The show has a small cast and, in the pit, a quintet made up of a string quartet and piano. In the Beverly production, they are the most stylish element, made up of the Arden String Quartet (Zoia Bologovsky, Rohan Gregory, Kate Vincent and Nicole Cariglia) and pianist-musical director Dale Rieling.
Rather than base his book and lyrics on the best-known straight play adaptation of Stoker’s novel by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, Ouzounian has gone back to the novel and placed the musical in Eastern Europe and England. To begin with, letters are read to help advance the plot. Ouzounian has opted to keep his dialogue in period, but director Ivan and most of his cast are only able to render it stilted.
There are odd moments, such as when this 500-year-old Dracula (a bewigged over-the-top Ron Bohmer) shoos his demon brides away and claims a partially undressed Harker (James Moye) for himself. Particularly egregious are those brides who, dressed in see-through body suits that suggest they’re wearing only G-strings, are directed to bump and grind around the stage in ways that aren’t even unintentionally funny.
The sets and costumes try for creepiness, the stage using its revolve and traps busily. Projections are screened, not too effectively, on drapes around the outer circle of the theater. In performance terms, Korbich, along with Robert Jensen as Van Helsing, probably have the best of it.