Sizzling with the theatrical intensity of a rock opera, the Columbia City Ballet’s production of Dracula is filled with drama thick enough to sink your teeth into. A perfect prelude to Halloween night, this ballet is a story of the classic struggle between good and evil, brimming with fake blood and scantily clad women.
A born storyteller, William Starrett, executive and artistic director of the CCB, brings Bram Stoker’s tale to life with his production of the classic gothic novel. Starrett’s staging of the ballet relies heavily on theatrics and an original musical score that drives the story quickly through the twists of a complex plot.
Set in Transylvania at the turn of the century, the story begins in typical ballet fashion with bright-eyed peasants and gypsies dancing in countryside. Jonathan, in search of Count Dracula, seeks directions from the townsfolk who point him in the right direction, but give him fair warning to avoid the Count at all costs. Jonathan continues to Dracula’s castle despite the ominous warning, where he discovers that the Count is interested in much more than business.
Returning home after narrowly escaping the Count and his trio of seductive maidens, Jonathan is welcomed by friends and family, but danger is close on his heels. Dracula and his host of undead have followed him back to wreak havoc on the townsfolk, trying to find their next victim.
Grant Show, best known for his role on Fox’s Melrose Place, is cast as Count Dracula in his premiere performance in a ballet production. Show lacks the fluidity and body control of a trained dancer, but he rose to the occasion in his pas de deux with Regina Willoughby, as he repeatedly threatens to turn her character into a vampire.
The role of Dracula is one steeped in drama, and Show’s experience as an actor on the small screen failed to prepare him for the overly theatrical role, which would typically be danced by a seasoned character dancer. Some of the most recognizable characters in full-length story ballets are the most famously dramatic roles, and are unusually complex and difficult to portray. George Balanchine, father of ballet in the United States, cast himself in the title role when he premiered Don Quixote in 1965 when he could find no one else equal to the role.
Regina Willoughby, dancing the part of Lucy, is seduced by Count Dracula and his writhing mob. We watch as she descends into the realm of the undead, the music and dancing becomes frantic, ferocious. Women in gauzy black tear across the stage like hags on broomsticks, screaming into the deafening wind. In an excellent moment of choreography, Willoughby flies through the air, borne by the hands of ragged men, and her transformation is complete. The final moments of Act II conclude in a deafening crescendo as Dr. Van Helsing and Lucy’s fiancé Arthur Holmwood vow to free her from eternal damnation by dramatically driving a wooden stake through her heart.
The final act of the ballet continues in Dracula’s castle with undead trying to initiate their newest victim. Struggle between the good and the dead climaxes in a sexually charged finale that leaves little to the imagination. And in a moment of pure theater, as Van Helsing and Jonathan drive the wooden stake deep into his heart, Show proves that Dracula’s finest moment is his last.