The stakes are high as Chemainus Theatre Festival brings a bloody good tale to the stage: Tony Award-winning Broadway play Dracula plays at Chemainus from Oct. 11 to Nov. 9, as the world's most classic vampire rises from his crypt to inspire fear.
The play, said Ian Butcher, who plays the blood-sucking count in the Chemainus production, is adapted from Bram Stoker's immortal legend of the aristocratic, charming, and vicious Vlad the Impaler and it's not an easy production to mount.
"These days everyone has preconceptions about vampires, about Dracula, and I did too, so it's not a play that is done all that often anymore," Butcher said. "I had to try to get Bela Lugosi and all the other iconic Draculas out of my head, all the cliche lines, and enter into my vision, the director's vision.
"I was nervous about attacking a role like this that everyone has ideas about, especially since vampires are so big right now."
Unlike the current crop of TV and film vampires who sparkle in sunlight or live trendy leatherclad lives in American towns and cities, the play is set in the English countryside many decades ago.
"The time frame is a bit ambiguous in the play but we've made it a bit more contemporary in the sense of taking out some of the melodramatic elements, all the big gestures," said Butcher. "What's difficult about a play like this is that you can't send it up, you have to keep it real so that the modern audience is taken along for the ride with the actors. It was a challenge but I think we have risen to that challenge."
Butcher said that like most vampire depictions in the past, this version of Dracula is strongly sensual.
"He's a romantic character, not really a monster. He has a strong quality of charm and seduction," Butcher said. "The way he looks at the women, the trances, there are really very strong sexual characteristics to Dracula."
The look of the play, said Butcher, is Gothic with long skirts and a "stunning" cape for
Dracula himself, and the production crew have been instrumental in ensuring the look and feel of the play stays creepy and evocative.
"I'm working with a dream group of people," he said, including director Bernard Cuffling, set designer Pam Johnson, lighting artist Marsha Sibthorpe, costumer Mara Gottler, sound technician Paul Tedeschini and stage manager Ingrid Turk.
"It's been a massive effort all the lighting and special effects and the costumes," he said. "Our tech week was very demanding because of all the special effects that have to be timed so carefully, but it has all come together almost miraculously. All we need now is the audience."
Butcher is joined on stage by Erin Ormond as Dr. Seward, Masae Day as her daughter Lucy, Daryl King as Lucy's fiance John Harker, Ian Harmon as the quirky Renfield, Ted Cole as vampire slayer Van Helsing and Michelle Lieffertz as Seward's maid Miss Wells.
This spooky production gives the audience a chance to relive the fright night feeling of Halloween. Things get creepier at
the talk-back Wednesday performances, where actors and artistic team reveal details about the legendary story and secrets of the production following the show.
Evening performances run Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinee shows run Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at: chemainustheatre.ca, or by calling the box office at 1-800-565-7738.
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