Frank Wildhorn’s Dracula, Lestat, Dance of the Vampires–I never miss a vampire musical. What Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors lacks in musical numbers, however, it more than makes up for in mirth, with the small but mighty five-person cast tossing away copies of Bram Stoker’s 500-page tome at the start and going for broke with the bloody old material for 90 ridiculous minutes. It fits right in at The Funhouse–my pet name for New World Stages, that web of subterranean black-box theaters that attracts comedies and oddities like Renfield attracts flies. There should be a place for everything in New York theater, and I’m glad this batty show has found a roost.
Like the hellspawn of Charles Ludlam and Mel Brooks Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors is the work of co-authors Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen, with the former directing to a fine frenzy. Like Ludlam’s drag burlesques and parodies it makes something considerably fun out of comparatively little in terms of theatrical resources, with all but one of the quintet doubling up and consistently imaginative use of props, lighting, and sound. And like Brooks it goes for the comedy jugular–not, fortunately, his last, anemic farce as director, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, but the wellspring of Young Frankenstein, with its mix of good bad jokes, sight gags, and bawdy humor.
In a nod to The Rocky Horror Show this young Dracula is a strapping pansexual hunk, given to stripping off his leather clothing to seduce members of any gender. With an amusingly overripe accent that’s as fluid as his desires James Daly slays in the part, as he first puts the moves on mousy real estate agent Jonathan Harker (Andrew Keenan-Bolger), who’s relocating him from Transylvania, then seduces the rest of the cast in England. Pretty Lucy (Jordan Boatman), Harker’s fiancée, is on the menu; more readily available, if only for sloppy seconds, is her lustful sister Mina. She’s played by the delightful Arnie Burton, who, encased in Victorian finery, gets many of the laughs, then appears as a female Van Helsing, a foil for Lucy and Mina’s upright, uptight father, asylum head Dr. Westfeldt (Ellen Harvey). Harvey also plays the insectivorous Renfield, and with split-second timing hops from one persona to the other in an applause-worthy changeover.
“Leave a five-star review!” says Boatman’s coachman after he delivers Harker to Dracula’s castle, and I might just do that. Sharing in the kudos are the design team, including Tijana Bjelajac for the enticing sets and an amusing pair of Statler and Waldorf mup…err, puppets (yes, puppets, it’s that kind of show), Tristan Raines (splendid period and not-quite-so costumes), Ron Denton (quick with the lights), and Victoria Deiorio, whose inventive soundscapes include a dash of club music. In between laughs the show manages to put across a modern theme, how Dracula’s presence, poutily narcissistic though it may be, infuses stuffy conservative lives with fresh blood and new vigor–something states that have bizarrely taken against drag in a vain and ludicrous attempt to turn back the clock might learn from. But I don’t mean to impose a message on this madness–add a few songs and Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors could be the “scare” apparent to Little Shop of Horrors.