Reviews of Dracula Musical at the White Bear Theatre Kennington, London
Dracula by Alex Loveless, directed by Chris Loveless
Produced by the Okai Collier Company
"I didn't know what to expect from Dracula staged as a musical at the White Bear theatre in Kennington by Loveless brothers writer/director Chris and composer Alex... It was stunning. From the wilds of Transylvania to prim Victorian London, the drama was darkly bloodstained and biting. Piano and cello enhanced a mesmeric mood, with every element for a gothic fantasy glowing through: madness, lust, the fear that immortality is worse than death itself and that love can seem the deepest abyss of all. Songlines simmered: Love is a knife that carves your life. Faithful to Bram Stoker, the production still managed to find twists in the story, and played grim torchlight on undercurrents of brutality posing as medicine and morality. There's an amazing scene as the men, outraged by the transformation of their women into vampiric seducers, form an armed posse and thunder through the forest, the vampire as their quarry, like any group of self-righteous fanatics witch-hunting the outsider who threatens their supremacy. Brilliant. I'd go to see anything by Fallen Angel Theatre Company now."
- Crysse Morrison
"...It works, and it works mainly because of the quality of the songs and the singing. Alex Loveless lyrics combine good rhyme with light irony hes the Devils creature, no redeeming feature. There are many good voices, including numbers by Dracula (Leigh Jones), Lucy (Joanna Hickman), Van Helsing (Oliver Hume), and Mina (Annabel King). Creating an air of menace/chill are the ensemble pieces. The Seduction a number twice reprised binds the musical together.
Effort has also gone into creating an intimate atmosphere. The White Bear is already a tight space but here they decide to create an artificial wall making the action even closer to the audience. The lighting subtly reflects the many changes in mood. Adding to it all are the accompanying musical instruments. The conservative attire of the men in contrast with the elegant dresses of the women keeps the Victorian feel.
...This is an alternative to the West End, perhaps not so lavish but certainly not lacking in quality. And, at three or so stops down on the Northern Line from the West End, it is not so far away either."
- Richard Woulfe
UK THEATRE NET REVIEW
"Fortunately the music is atmospheric and delightfully melodic ... in I Am Great Atilla there is a fine number in which Leigh Joness strong, fine-voiced Dracula recounts his descent from the conquering Hun and A Kiss Can Last Forever is a lyrical love duet when Dracula is ensnaring Annabel Kings Mina. Loveless is sinister without being grotesque. Though bent-backed when first encountered at Castle Dracula, when rejuvenated she obviously finds him much more intriguing than her husband Jonathan Harker, whom Duncan Wigman makes a very proper and unerotic English gentleman. Joanna Hickmans Lucy is also a nice young gal, with a brief but dangerous vicious moment when she bares her teeth in her vampire transformation. (When not on stage she also, if Im not mistaken, swells the orchestration playing the oboe.)
Professor Helsing, the vampire expert who guides the others in tracking down Dracula, is confidently played by Oliver Hume, complete with the slightly fractured English that Stoker gave him, but a less dominant figure than in some movie versions. These vampire hunters are much more of a team and so is this cast, though each has their moment, including Richard Warricks fly-eating lunatic Renfield, whose strange behaviour is brought forward to open this adaptation, which also has a slightly altered ending to allow Dracula a final number.
... It doesnt indulge in overblown histrionics or aim at spectacular effects but gets on with the story and flows rapidly from scene to scene. The pace, driven by the music, is sometimes in danger of being too fast to register all the information being delivered in the text but there are no longeurs! Some of the credit for that perhaps belongs to movement director Omar Okai who has managed to utilise the whole cast in this space for a full-scale fight between the gypsies accompanying Draculas carriage and the vampire hunters without endangering any of the audience.
This is a most appropriate entertainment for Halloween and the lengthening evenings for anyone who takes their horror lightly but wants to see it being treated seriously. It wont give you bad dreams."
- Howard Loxton
THE BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE
"One of the most entertaining new musicals I have seen in a long time, superb ensemble piece, despite small space and (obviously) limited funding the piece really draws you in and both the acting and singing is first rate. Like the way they have focused on the 'human' element of Stoker's novel, rather than the blood and gore... very dramatic but never once falls into the realms of camp melodrama. Couple of the songs are memorable... would be interesting to see if anyone picks this up and develops it further... Leigh Jones as Dracula, Oliver Hume as Van Helsing, Annabel King as Mina Murray and Richard Warrick as Renfield are particularly memorable... Joanna Hickman as Lucy Westenra also very good... if you like supporting new and accomplished work... and Gothic style stories then take a look... you won't be disappointed."
- Andrew Mulligan
THIS IS LONDON
"A musical version of Dracula could have gone horribly wrong, but The Fallen Angel Theatre Company have managed to pull off an entertaining evening, in this well produced version of the gothic classic. ... The singing is spot on throughout, ... a well choreographed and acted piece of stage entertainment... A night of bloody good fun."
- Kathleen Hall
WHAT'S ON STAGE
"Sexy, aristocratic, mysterious and ultimately as tragic as hes villainous, Count Dracula is a gift of a part for the small stage as well as the big screen.
Taking up where film adaptations left off, this mini musical version successfully makes the male half of the audience aspire to be like him, while the women long to come into his arms, to quote from one of the more memorable of the shows easy-on-the-ear songs.
With a compelling stage presence and a powerful singing voice, Leigh Jones is made for the role. Others are also very well cast and the performances are consistently strong. The fresh-faced Duncan Wigman is the innocent Jonathan Harker. In danger of appearing ridiculously naive besides the wily count, he grows in authority as he defends the love of his life Mina (Annabel King), whose inner toughness is expressed through a voice comparable to Draculas in strength.
Her foil is the fragile, flirtatious Lucy, played by Joanna Hickman, who also accompanies on the cello musical director and pianist Neil MacDonald. Alex Loveless music and lyrics err on the side of the sentimental and straight, but they faithfully convey the spirit of Bram Stokers novel and deftly build up the drama, which makes for highly-enjoyable studio theatre entertainment. "
- Barbara Lewis
"...The epic style he [Alex Loveless] has adopted works beautifully with the presentation of text through diary form, as the original work was written; this provides a useful structure to build this interpretation around. What is also effective, is the cinematic style of underscoring the dialogue, coupled with a number of memorable songs (at last someone writes a tune you can remember the following morning), giving the feeling of a sung through musical. This device helps to unify what is, in essence, an extremely fragmented story.
With this in mind credit has to be given to Musical Director Neil MacDonald, who at one electric piano, plays non-stop throughout the entire two hours, accompanied, at times, by two cast members on the cello and guitar.
Directed by Chris Loveless, brother of Alex, there is a complete believability of the events that unfold. In the performing space that is the White Bear ... we are transported to all corners of Europe with a pace and style that hardly ever lets up. His attention to detail with text and delivery, along with how far to allow high drama to unfold without it falling into laughable melodrama is admirable, as are the performances he has drawn out from his twelve-strong cast. Complementing this meticulous attention to the book is intelligent movement direction from Omar F. Okai, who uses the music and pace to enhance the fluidity of the piece, without ever encroaching on either the development of the story or the limitations of the space. This is most effectively seen in the seduction scene, where the indomitable Jonathan Harker, played with unwavering conviction and pace by Duncan Wigman, is seduced by three vivacious vampire women (Holly Sands, Holly Vernon-Harcourt and Vicky Williamson).
Justin Arientis set, simple in its premise, a curved wall of painted plastic corrugation with three gauze covered doorways, is one of the most sensitive and appropriate designs I have seen at the theatre, it wraps itself around the audience, physically drawing you into the story. Lighting designer Cristina De La Paz manages, with only 18 lamps (I counted them) to effectively complement the piece, giving a feeling of inescapable claustrophobia, whilst Christina Pomeroys costumes, despite obvious budgetary limitations, add the finishing touches to Draculas high production values.
Dracula himself is played by the impressive Leigh Jones, whose presence never leaves the stage for one moment. There is strong support from Annabel King as Mina Murray; Joanna Hickman as Lucy Westenra, Mario Christofides as Dr. John Seward, Russell Anthony as Arthur Holmwood, Jamie Addleton as Quincey P. Morris and a particularly noteworthy performance comes from Oliver Hume as Van Helsing, who plays with conviction and sensibility, rather than many of the rather laughable previous incarnations. I must also give a special mention to Richard Warrick as Renfield, who with depth and humour never once falls into the realms of a clichéd insane patient.
Alex Lovelesss Dracula is an intelligent and memorable interpretation of the Stoker novel, a feat that has eluded many of those who have tried before him. One hopes that this new musical will capture the attention of those in a position to develop the piece as it is one of few new works that truly does have potential to go further."
- Lottie Morris
MUSICAL STAGES MAGAZINE
"Isn't a musical of Dracula a slightly odd idea? Aren't vampires supposed to be cold, aloof and silent - not enthusiastically belting out a show stopping good tune as though they are in an Undead Xfactor? But this play is worth a second look (and hearing). Oliver Hume is excellent as Professor Van Helsing, the eccentric, energetic vampire-fighter leading the heroes against the Count. He is equally at home breaking into coffins or cracking inappropriate one-liners with that famous gallows humour, such as his eager acceptance of an offer of a Lucy's betrothed's "last drop of blood" for her blood transfusion. Van Helsing often seems to be Stoker's only creation with a sense of humour, but it is completely misplaced throughout the novel, from his polite offer to let Seward enter Lucy's tomb before him. Leigh Jones gives good Bela Lugosi with his Vincent Price-esque trim guardsman's figure in head to foot trademark black. Perfecting that intense vampiric glare, he is strong enough to pick up his naive guest Jonathan Harker and carry him off. Harker (Duncan Wigman) plays it straight as the conventional, uptight young solicitor, matched by his equally well-mannered wife Mina Murray (Annabel King)... the musical breathes new life to the 1897 melodrama, and is a brave and vigorous adaptation of the horror classic. If singing vampires are your thing, see them here."
- Nina Romain
"The Loveless Brothers, Alex (composer) and Chris (director), created a remarkably effective sung-through version of the story, managing to avoid falling into laughable melodrama. The musical followed the epic style of the novel with its diary and letter form and the result was an intelligent, gripping and fluid show with a twelve strong cast and musical accompaniment from an electric keyboard occasionally accompanied by cast members on cello, oboe and guitar. The music came in for especial praise, and it was generally felt this could be a show with a future."
- OVER THE FOOTLIGHTS
Additional Dracula Musical sites
What's on Stage Readers' Reviews of Dracula Musical directed by Chris Loveless
Off West End - Reviews of Dracula Musical at the White Bear
The White Bear Theatre Kennington
This is London Dracula Review
TICKET WEB online booking for Dracula
Dracula Director - Chris Loveless - Fallen Angel Theatre Company
Richard Warrick - Renfield in Dracula
Dress Circle - Dracula Musical World Premiere directed by Chris Loveless
Joanna Hickman - Lucy Westenra in Dracula
Mercury Musicals What's on
What's on Stage Dracula production details
Eventful - Dracula [Fallen Angel]
My Village Dracula Details
The London Paper - White Bear Dracula location
White Bear Theatre Club
Dracula Musical in London