The production of Dracula deviates from the classic story, with eerie effects and a banger of an ending.
Vampire brides, creepy crypts and dancers that fly through the air are just a few of the spectacles included in Tulsa Ballet’s exciting performance of “Dracula.” Returning for the first time in six years, this thrilling fan-favorite ballet didn’t disappoint. With all the theatrical components of the performance, it was more like watching a suspenseful movie than a ballet.
The story of the vampire Dracula was told through three acts, and the tension ratcheted up in each. When the curtains opened on Act I, “The Crypt of Dracula’s Castle,” Dracula’s coffin sat in the middle of the stage. As the first strains of music floated across the stage, the coffin slowly began to move backward. A black mesh screen dropped in front of the stage, and the fog machines shrouded the cave in an air of mysticism. A collective gasp ran through the audience when Dracula suddenly appeared. In a stone doorway in the back, he stood enveloped in a black cloak, looking every bit a classic villain.
Before the audience could get used to Dracula’s appearance, he opened his cloak like wings to reveal a vivid, brilliant red. He flapped to the front, and when he turned around, the exquisite back sparkled with burgundy, gold and black. His wings were so realistic, it was easy to imagine he was the vampire of legend ready to feed on beautiful young maidens and make them his wives.
The backdrop and setting were excellent for this creepy crypt. When the black mesh screen dropped to reveal the whole stage, there were cavernous, crumbling stone walls, as well as several candelabras with flickering candles dotting the set to provide a mysterious air.
Dracula’s brides slowly and methodically entered the stage like zombies. Dressed in all white, flowy effervescent dresses, they looked like ghost zombies. To complete their spectral look, they wore curly white wigs and had pale white faces with bright red lips and blue makeup around their eyes to make them look sunken.
The brides floated around the stage directed by their tyrannical husband Dracula. They moved with beautiful twirls and jumps, and a few brides even flew through the air. Dracula appeared in their midst, flying down from the ceiling. It was extremely bat-like and added an element of danger to the performance.
The mystical dancing scene was interrupted by a huge black zombie carriage with tattered gray hangings driven maniacally by Dracula’s henchman Renfield. Inside was a beautiful young girl named Flora, brought to satisfy the vampires’ bloodlust. Desperately, she tried to escape her fate, running and twirling around the stage, but eventually, she was stopped. She and Dracula then moved into a haunting dance number that ended with Dracula subduing her and feeding on her. The act concluded with the vampire brides having a feeding frenzy over her lifeless body.
Act II, titled “The Village,” had a completely different tone. The strains of music coming across the stage were lighter than the heavy piano music of the first act and set the atmosphere for the new one. The sets were completely different but no less massive and impressive. In contrast to Dracula’s cavernous crypt, there were lots of little cottages, overhanging tree branches and mountains in the background.
This act centered around the 18th birthday party of Svetlana, a famed beauty. There was a traditional village couple’s dance, as well as a ribbon dance with the girls and staff-throwing ritual for the men.
At the birthday party, Frederick asked for Svetlana’s hand in marriage, and it was granted. They had a beautiful dance together, and everything seemed to be working out to be happily ever after — until Flora staggered into the scene.
Concerned, everyone rushed to her aid and the stage lights darkened. There were flashes of light and thunder, and Dracula entered dramatically from the sky. After a short battle, Dracula carried Svetlana off in his carriage.
The final act of the show, “The Bedroom of Count Dracula,” is the showdown I am anxiously awaiting. Dracula arrived at his bedchamber with Svetlana to transform her into his latest wife and have her all to himself. She put up a strong resistance, but Dracula was too strong. He was about to bite her and complete the transformation when Frederick and other villagers arrived to save her.
A fierce battle ensued, with the villagers trying to use a priest’s cross to stop the vampire. After a long battle where the dancers danced in couples and Svetlana was pulled between Dracula and Frederick, the villagers pulled back the curtains to reveal the sun.
Dracula flew up to his chandelier, but he couldn’t get away from the sunlight. In a shower of white light and sparks, he turned to dust.
What was so impressive about this ballet is that the dancers weren’t just gracefully moving across the stage, but they were using props like ribbons and staffs, as well as gracefully flying through the air. “Dracula,” also had excellent pacing, and there was a good buildup of suspense. I was never bored because the scenery was always changing.
This ballet was masterfully done. It had the right elements of beauty and suspense to be fun and perfect for Halloween time. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, the dancers will return to the stage soon for their next ballet, performing the classic “Nutcracker” Dec. 8–23. Put it on your calendar; it is sure to be one of the highlights of the Christmas season!