Preview Venue: The Singing Gallery, 133 Main Road, McLaren Vale
Fringe Venue: South Australian Folk Centre, Cnr George St & South Rd, Thebarton
Fringe Season: 19, 25 & 26 February at 8pm
Duration: 2 hours
All Tickets: $22.50
Bookings: FringeTix 1300 FRINGE (374 643) or http://www.adelaidefringe.com.au
Luke Baldock’s original interpretation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula inhabits the space between gothic romance and pantomime. The audience is not invited to participate although the fourth wall of the stage is broken on several occasions. Upstage has made a name for themselves in children’s entertainment and their background leaks into this more serious production with mixed effect.
This early preview of their Fringe offering should allow this fun musical to evolve for the Fringe performances. Certainly, the bigger, better venue closer to the city will help with the staging.
Upstage co-founder John Martin directs and also takes on the role of insane Renfield where he does what he does best – make people laugh. As a director, he keeps the pace flowing nicely but needs to give more thought about how to gel the various components of the play together.
Baldock’s script fluctuates between drama and comedy, while David D’Angelo’s original songs predominantly seem to focus on the adventure and romance. The cast on the other hand present a mishmash of dramatic and panto styles of acting.
Given Upstage’s reputation for the outlandish, there’s every chance the unevenness could be a deliberate ploy, as the comedy element is a treat, with many a surprise injected into the storyline when least expected.
Baldock features as the lovelorn Count Dracula, a suave creature of the night with tongue firmly in cheek. Alongside him Deirdre Quinn is disturbingly exotic as his vampiric cousin, the Countess Elizabeth Bathory.
The painfully nerdish Johnathon Harker is played by Rhys Elliot, who makes Harker immensely likeable despite the character flaws. His fiancée Mina Murray is magnificently portrayed by Alisha Thompson with all the beauty and sophistication of a classic heroine.
Sue Oldknow as Mina’s lusty nursemaid often steals the moment with her dry delivery of great one-liners, while Nick Buckland and Carina Gun also feature as Van-Helsing and Dr Murray respectively. The ever-delightful Violet Rowe rounds out the cast in a cameo appearance as the Transylvanian inn keeper’s wife.
The three piece band features Musical Director and songwriter David D’Angelo on keyboard with Paul Trueack on drums and Daniel Micklethwaite on violin. It’s a surprisingly effective combination that doesn’t drown out the action, even when the cast aren’t near a microphone. The underscoring music adds greatly to the scene changes and general action while the songs generally help to move the story along. The cast sometimes struggle with their solos, but only the Act 1 finale, “Vampire Hunters” disappoints with its lost potential to be the showstopper.
Vi Rowe’s costumes are one of the stars of the show which is no surprise given she potentially has the largest private collection of period clothing and costumes in the southern hemisphere.
Calling this a ‘Bloody Good Musical” may be an exaggeration but it’s good fun and it doesn’t suck. With a bit more focus it may well reach its claim in time for the Fringe.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis, Performing Arts Critic, Glam Adelaide.