Dracula takes a final bow at Theatre on the Ridge
More than a century after the passing of its creator, the vampire tale Dracula lives on.
First introduced in Bam Stroker's 1897 novel, the Count — who often resides in his castle near Transylvania — can now be found causing a stir in Amber Miller's theatrical adaptation at Theatre on the Ridge in Paradise. Miller said she had been thinking about doing a musical version of the story for a while.
"I was at brunch with Jerry Miller, the artistic director of Theatre on the Ridge, and he's like, you want me to put you on? And I was a couple of champagnes in, and I was like okay.”
Described as a gothic jukebox musical, Miller's retelling of this classic horror story was not easy to adapt for the stage. If you've read Stoker's novel, you know that there is plenty to work with, with over 400 pages of worthy material.
"I had to make some peace with …fitting all the plot points and giving it that broad story," Miller said. "I had to combine some things, and I had to take a little bit of liberties.”
Stoker’s Dracula is very careful to tell you where you are geographically. Location plays a very important role in the novel. It was a detail that Miller worked on to help the audience grasp the various locations.
"I decided to have … two narrators, a narration segment where, as the transition was going, the narrator would come out and tell you where the scene was taking place, and also, you know, general timeline," she said. "The audience got a sense of where they were, both in location and time in the novel."
Miller's adaptation is most unique in how it integrates music with the story and characters. The show includes a selection of alternative favorites and popular modern tracks.
During the pandemic, Miller said she spent countless hours listening to music with her husband and stepdaughter, jotting ideas down in a little black book to work them into the adaptation.
"I wanted them to really fit the tone and the story. They are really meant to drive the story." Miller explained. "I just wanted them integral into the storytelling process."
The show debuted this month with a cast of 15 people. It’s currently in its final weekend. Dracula himself is played by Mike Flicker. He said it's his first musical and the experience has been a challenge, but rewarding.
"It was a very long brutal rehearsal process, lots of emotions, going through the ups and downs of attempting my first musical," Flicker said. "But between the director's encouragement and support of the cast, this shy guy could finally break out and become Dracula, even if only at the last minute."
Owen Hansen, who plays Arthur Holmwood, fiance to Lucy Westenra, attributed the play’s success to Miller's directing and music, which was painstakingly honed and orchestrated by musicians Sam Francis and Ben Ruttenburg.
"Working for her (Miller) in this production is a kite flyer to a kite," Hansen said. "You're free to work creatively, and she will guide and rein in to keep to the overarching narrative focus."
The results have paid off. Three weeks of performances were well attended. The show will close the curtain Sunday to a sold-out crowd.
"This is the hardest thing I've ever done, and I'm just happy to have such an awesome group of people that also wanted to put all that work into it," Miller said. "So I'm just super proud and grateful to everybody that's been involved."