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STRATFORD, Ontario A Stratford Festival presentation of a musical in two acts with book and lyrics by Richard Ouzounian and music by Marek Norman. Directed by Richard Ouzounian. Musical director and orchestrations, Norman. Sets and costumes, Douglas Paraschuk; lighting, Kevin Fraser; sound, Peter McBoyle; fight director, James Binkley; dialect coach, Tim Charrington. Opened, reviewed June 2, 1999. Running time: 2 HOURS, 55 MIN.
Jonathan Harker           Roger Honeywell
Dracula                      Juan Chioran
Mina Murray                  June Crowley
Lucy Westenra                   Amy Walsh
Jack Seward                  Shawn Wright
R.M. Renfield           Benedict Campbell
Abraham Van Helsing      Michael Fletcher
With: Jane Cooke, Sadie Hoy, Esther

Musical numbers: "Journey to the Castle," "Dreams of Darkness," "Waiting," "Just One More Night," "If You Love Me Now" "The Spider and the Fly," "I Will Shelter You," "Oh Precious Father," "Let the Night Begin," "The Undead," :"The Last Light of the Sun," "Live to Walk Away," "No Greater Force," "The Blood Is Life," "Not Very Long Ago," "Nothing Left But Time."

It's a given that any musical adaptation of "Dracula" is going to have to leave out a great deal of the psychological layering at the heart of Bram Stokers novel. It's also inevitable that few viewers will not have seen (or read) some version of the famous vampire legend. So Richard Ouzounian and Marek Norman's new musical about the blood-sucking Transylvanian was bound to have gaping wounds somewhere.

Those holes are most apparent in the way the script has necessarily been truncated to meet stage demands. Moreover, some of the songs need work, primarily because there is a sameness to them: single-note beginnings, balladic tempos and predictable crescendos. (One song,

"The Blood Is the Life," doesn't work either musically or lyrically.) But even given those flaws, the authors have turned out a credible work, with at least three fabulous songs and a story that is true to the novel, with the exception of its final scene. They have also done it with only seven performers, creating a chamber piece that flies in the face of large-scale musicals and yet never feels too small for its larger-than-life canvas.

More importantly, they have brought a vision that is much more horrifying than the usual capes and cheap chills. In its place is the subtext of Stoker's story brought to life onstage -- the forbidden lusts and a redemption from evil cloaked in a love that is more like chains than liberation.

Nor do the authors follow the idea of Dracula's possession as rape. It is his magnetism, his ability to be who and what he desires and his promise of sexual fulfillment that draw women to him. By going back to the original text, Ouzounian and Norman have actually made their story totally contemporary.

Their deeply sensual point of view is highlighted when Dracula undoes Lucy's snow-white peignoir and sinks his teeth into her bosom clearly bringing her to instantaneous orgasm. They've shed Bela Lugosi in favor of Anne Rice and the now popular Gothic movement.

The production is stunning. Ouzounian directs a terrific cast with honey voices and charismatic personalities. Juan Chioran allows for a Gothic giggle or two, but makes his handsome count a mesmerizing magician, whose lament "Dreams of Darkness" is both haunting and deeply moving. The voices of Roger Honeywell as Jonathan, Benedict Campbell as the crazy Renfield, Amy Walsh as Lucy and June Crowley as Mina blend smoothly -- they're so good they manage to make one or two still rough-edged tunes sound terrific.

Douglas Paraschuk's beautiful set of movable, black-mirrored walls reflect Kevin Fraser's amazing lighting design. Some scenes are breathtaking in their power and simplicity.

As the curtain fell on opening night the audience screamed itself hoarse in appreciation. And for once, it felt like the genuine thing.3
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Date:Jun 21, 1999
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