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Theater Review

A Musical 'Dracula' That Brims With Laughter and Shivers

The Sacred Fools version makes effective use of showy theatrical trappings of the 19th century

October 10, 2002|DARYL H. MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Sacred Fools presentation of "Dracula: A Musical Nightmare" is a Halloween haunt of a show that tickles the ribs one moment, then turns around and sends icy fingers up the spine.

The show is presented as a 19th century melodrama, with flourishes from the English music hall. Its master of ceremonies is one Chauncey, ahem, DeVille (Joe Jordan), who possesses more than a passing resemblance to the title character.

Eyebrows waggling like bats in flight, he sinks his teeth into his comic patter.

In keeping with period conventions, the performances are frankly theatrical and sometimes outright showy, as when Melinda Cowan preens through her performance as beautiful vampire-to-be Lucy.

Comic bits involve a nerdy Jonathan Harker (Henry Dittman), who scrupulously documents his misadventures ("These may be the last words I ever write. More later"); a lunatic asylum doctor, John Seward (Bruno Oliver), who seems a more likely candidate for confinement than the calm, deliciously droll Renfield (Michael Lanahan); and a Dr. Van Helsing (Brad Friedman) who's slow on the uptake.

Things turn spooky when Jordan steps in to replace the curiously indisposed actor who usually plays Dracula. Dressed in black evening wear and floor-length cape, he seems to glide out of the semidarkness. At 6 feet, 7 inches tall, he is at once scary and mesmerizing.

This show was a hit at the Zephyr Theatre in 1978. Its new staging is by Jessie Marion and Ruth Silveira, daughter and widow, respectively, of that production's director, Richard Marion.

"Dracula," Sacred Fools, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends Nov. 2. $15. (310) 281-8337. Running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes.

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