New York Cool

Theater

Wendy R. Williams
Wendy R. Williams 

 

Greetings Theater Lovers,

On Wednesday July 18th, I saw Dracula at the Belasco Theater.

I was accompanied by a group of friends, all New Yorkers. Dracula is the latest musical extravaganza from Frank Wildhorn (Jekyl and Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel), with book and lyrics by Christopher Hampton and Don Black, music by Frank Wildhorn and direction by Des McAnuff (Tommy).

Dracula

Dracula, as everyone must know, is based on the novel by Bram Stoker. "Dracula" has a superb cast, a few of whom are: Tom Hewitt as Dracula, Melissa Errico as Mina Murray, Kelli O'Hara as Lucy Westenra, Stephen McKinley Henderson as Van Helsing and Don Stephenson as Renfield.

Well...I liked it a lot more than my friends did. They were uniformly unimpressed. Their gut reaction is summed up by these words, "How hokey!" But they were much kinder than the New York critics who have uniformly piled on this show. My favorite bad review quote was from Ben Brantley (New York Times, Friday August 20th), who said that the show has, "...all the animation, suspense and sex appeal of a Victorian waxworks in a seaside amusement park." Ouch!

But here is the funny thing. I have a fondness for Victorian wax works and Mr. Brantley is right, the show is definitely a Victorian tableau. It was beautiful - the sets, the lights and the costumes were all stunning. Gorgeous vampirettes, in white Victoria's-Secret-like boudoir sets, flew across the purple stage. The Vampire flew. The sets popped up out of the floor. Yes, the story is very vanilla pudding, but the kind of vanilla pudding you eat in an overblown French restaurant in Louisiana.

Now I personally like my vampires either campy (George Hamilton in Love at First Bite) or erotic (Frank Langella in Dracula and just about anything else). If you have a bat flying through a window to seduce a heroine who is lying in bed with her husband, the scene better be really hot or incredibly funny, or both. Wildhorn's version of Dracula is neither. He is presenting Dracula as a children's tale, but he is presenting it to grown-ups in New York City, and that bat isn't going to fly here. After all, New Yorkers are the people who loved William Dafoe and John Malkovitch in Shadow of a Vampire.

But...it doesn't matter. All Mr. Wildhorn has to do is survive New York for a moderate period of time and then he will be able to TOUR, where he will make bucket loads of money from the rest of the world. All over this United States, women are gathering up their children, girlfriends, mothers, aunts and husbands (if they are good husbands) and taking them to every musical that hits town, because musicals are good clean fun and they are Culture and Culture is good for you. I am from Texas (I moved here 9 years ago) and I attended musicals all my life - community theater musicals, high school musicals, church musicals, touring musicals - it didn't matter, it was a musical and we attended. Most of the musicals were not that wonderful, but you went because you were a middle class Texan and that is just what you did.

I just checked the internet and saw that Mr. Wildhorn's other much-maligned-by-New York-critics musical, Jekyl and Hyde, is touring the world - playing Seoul, South Korea in August and then moving on to England. So, get over it New York. The days when New York critics could make or break a show are long gone. Now excuse me why I get some tickets for Mama Mia. I have some cousins coming to town and they didn't catch Mama Mia when it played Dallas (the Cowboy must have been playing that weekend), so they are coming to New York for a culture fix.

Rock on! - Wendy

 
 

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