July 11, 2008

Footlighters Presents Camp Vamp With ‘Dracula: The Musical?’

By Stacey Fullwiler

REDLANDS - "This is the classic tale of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' - destroyed," said Tamara Griffey, director of the Redlands Footlighters Theatre production of "Dracula: The Musical?" which opened Thursday, July 10.

"This show has every Dracula joke you've ever thought of and a hundred more you didn't."

Set in 19th-century England in Dr. Seward's lunatic asylum, this loony musical farce by Rick Abbot finds the good doctor and his family set upon by a new neighbor - a strange Hungarian count who seems to have eyes for the neck of the doctor's daughter, Mina. The count chases Mina, Van Helsing shows up to chase the count, villagers also show up to chase the count, and everyone finds time for corny gags, funny puns, silly songs - and margaritas!

The play sports such unlikely characters as a singing, pitchfork- carrying mob, a Renfield whose lyrical travelogues hypnotize anyone within earshot and a hilariously lusty Dracula (played by Michael Corr) who manages to out-vamp even the big-screen vampires.

"We have such a hard time not laughing during rehearsals," said Mia Mercado, who camps it up as Dr. Seward's wife, Sophie. "There are so many funny lines, and we take advantage of every one."

"Dracula" is a youthful production both on and off stage, with cast members running from age 12 to 38.

"We had a big turnout at auditions," said Griffey, who is also the drama teacher at Notre Dame High School. "We had a lot of college students, high school and middle school students and recent graduates," she said. "It's terrific. We've ended early some nights and they'll go, 'Let's do it again!'

"Rehearsals start at 7:30, but they'll get here at 7 to talk to each other. They bring each other cookies and food - they want to socialize. It's a testament to the camaraderie of this cast," Griffey said. "A lot of times, you have a separation between the cast and the ensemble; here, you don't. It's great!"

As anyone who has been to the Footlighters Theatre knows, the stage design always provides a special challenge to productions held there.

"This show was written for proscenium," Griffey said. "And we obviously have a very unique stage here (the audience sits on two sides of a rectangular stage).

"It's a very technical show. We're using everything the Footlighters has backstage, plus we're adding more. We had to reinvent some things for the show, create a lot of sleight of hand."

A particular delight for audiences will be the live piano accompaniment, played on a baby grand piano by Micaela Treanor. Her character was specifically written into this production.

"We had a choice. We could either use canned music or we could write in a blind, deaf, mute pianist and have the pleasure of live music," Griffey said.

The show also features a number of special effects, including trick mirrors, fog and secret exits.

The cast of "Dracula: The Musical?" really sink their teeth into Abbot's campy one-liners and schlocky horror gags, giving performances worthy of a Mel Brooks spoof.

Guests are advised to bring their hankies - for the tears of laughter the cast produces.

"Dracula: The Musical?" runs weekends through July 27, at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $14 for adults, $10 for students. For more information, call the box office at (909) 793-2909 or visit www.redlandsfootlighters.org

(c) 2008 Redlands Daily Facts. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.