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Cinema/TV, Dracula, Film Notes

Your Daily Dracula – Juan Chioran, Dracula (Dracula A Chamber Musical) (1999)

Your Daily Dracula – Juan Chioran, Dracula (Dracula A Chamber Musical) (1999)

A Canadian television recording of a live performance of a chamber musical by Richard Ouzounian – with unobtrusive audience applause and some ambitious camerawork that suggests at least parts were shot separately – at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario.  Just one of many attempts to wrestle Bram Stoker’s novel into musical form – whether as musical, opera, ballet, heavy metal concert – this inevitably follows the grand romance approach of the Coppola film (some bits of business are lifted) though the trend of reimagining gothic horror as gothic romance in musical theatre probably owes more to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera than any prior stage or screen Dracula.  It’s a matter of taste, but I find that classic monsters who sing songs of whining self-pity and ask to be rated as great lovers get on my nerves.  I start to miss the Draculas who are bloodthirsty bastards.

It takes place on spare, dark sets with the odd infusion of ground mist and ruthlessly pares down the cast and plot – no Arthur, no Quincey, no sea voyage, only wordless cameos for the spectral brides, no London – to allow for the whole thing to be performed almost as oratorio with full-throated characters singing at each other.  It departs from the Mina-centric Coppola film to reuse the Lucy-focused plotting Richard Matheson – under the spell of Dan Curtis’ Dark Shadows – used on the 1974 Jack Palance TV movie.  This gives everyone stronger arcs and motivations, though in a rather soap opera fashion – here, the Count (Juan Chioran) finds that Jonathan Harker (Roger Honeywell) has a photo of his fiancee Mina (June Crowley) with her best friend Lucy (Amy Walsh) and fixates on the latter … biting her, which means that so far as her fiancee Dr Seward (Shawn Wright) and his mentor Van Helsing (Michael Fletcher) are concerned she’s dead, though she is actually up and about as a vampire and not apparently doing anyone much harm when the menfolk drive a stake through her.

This end of Act One development enrages Dracula, who has so far been imposing and a bit long-winded but basically an okay guy, so he promises to pay Jonathan back by biting and enslaving Mina.  In a nice bit of stage business, Dracula’s influence is conveyed by Mina putting a red peignoir over her white nightie – which she rips off when he’s killed (he still has a couple of verses to sing even with a stake in his chest) and she’s redeemed.  Renfield (Benedict Campbell), as so often, gets the best scenes (and songs) – his symbolic aria about the spider and the fly is the catchiest number here.  Chioran first appears with long gray hair and a red dressing gown, but darkens up after nipping on Jonathan – and favours a long coat rather than a cloak.

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