In this post-Twilight era, it's easy to think that we've seen all the possible permutations of the vampire concept. Well, here's a new one: a jazz-dance Dracula, staged at the Ritz Theater this March (not traditionally regarded as the spookiest of months).
Collide Theatrical Dance Company's adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel is quite a show, but you have to know what you're getting into. If the Dracula you've been waiting for is a version set to modern-rock anthems with a tap-dancing Prof. Van Helsing (Rush Benson) and a vampire (Michael Hanna) who looks like Jared Leto on a coke bender, then you're in luck.
This could all be very campy, but someone forgot to tell this sincere young company. Whether a bloodthirsty psychiatric patient (Regina Peluso) is getting a sort of dance therapy to Depeche Mode or the Count is going down to the strains of Queen, the performers play this material totally straight.
In director Joshua Campbell's production, a rock band led by Doug Rohde plays moody arrangements of 19 numbers ranging from Nirvana's "Come As You Are" (Castle Dracula's version of "Be Our Guest") to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" to — wait for it — "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music.
Peluso, who is the company's artistic director and who choreographed the show, calls Dracula a "dance musical." The only dancer who also sings is Hanna, the most emo ghoul since Jack Skellington. The dangerous liaison between Dracula and sweet Mina, an unambiguous rape allegory in the novel, here feels like a star-crossed romance: As Mina, the lithe and fresh-faced Renee Guittar bats her eyelashes at the Count and breaks his heart. (Not literally — that's a man's job.)
If there's a major miscalculation here, it's making the title character such a wet noodle. Capable vocalist Katie Gearty, who sits with the band, could have handled the singing, allowing the title character some much-needed mystique. As Hanna moans Radiohead's "Creep," you want to slap him across the face and yell, "You wish you were special? You are special! You're motherfucking Dracula!"
The undead who get to have all the fun here are Peluso, whose wriggles of delight as she swallows flies are the most erotic moves in the entire show; and Jami Snively as Lucy, a virginal bride who undergoes a goth transformation after she trades bodily fluids with Dracula. She comes screaming out to run through the audience while Van Helsing and his well-trained troupe try to sashay her into submission.
It's all very silly, but it's performed with such complete commitment that you have to admire what this crew has pulled off on, according to Peluso's program note, "a limited budget and limited rehearsal time." This Dracula is kind of like High School Musical: Even if you hate it, you might just love it, too.