Perhaps you know the story of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, at least as us mortals have told it for over a century. Just as the company does in the opening minutes of Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors, prepare to quite literally throw the book aside to embrace a sharper, queer-friendly take on everyone’s favorite blood-sucking fiend. That’s right, this laugh-till-you-cry romp is easily one of the best comedies on any stage this side of Transylvania. Grab a stake and some garlic from the farmer’s market, and just try to resist hunky Dracula’s hypnotic seduction.
Dracula gives the audience a very brief chance to get out while they still can, just before the sound rattles out in the theater of the doors truly being locked for good. The time is 1887, and real estate broker Jonathan Harker (Andrew Keenan-Bolger) is en route to Dracula’s castle to sell off a few properties. Despite being appropriately warned about the castle’s centuries of death and destruction or the prowling wolves on the estate, Jonathan still ends up within its walls. In a fog of hairspray, Dracula (James Daly) himself emerges with a fabulous snap of his fingers. Very tall and muscular, Canadian-born Daly cuts quite the figure as Dracula, and within minutes, sheds his very skimpy shirt to reveal rippling abs. Skin-tight black pants also leave little to the imagination. The creators of this play definitely know their audience will appreciate the eye candy. It almost makes one wonder what some parents were thinking in bringing along their young children.
Dracula himself is presented as very lonely, even if confident in his general looks and means. He works out effortlessly on stage, flexing every muscle for Jonathan before the stammering man pulls out the contracts to sign off. The second Dracula discovers Jonathan has a girl back home—this time, Mina and her sister, Lucy, have been swapped out to be Jonathan’s fiancé, with the latter being the Oxford-graduate central female character, and the former a ginger-haired outcast who cannot get a suitor—he positively drools and thrusts over her photo. Dracula simply must have Lucy (Jordan Boatman), no matter the cost. Introducing Dracula and Jonathan to one another, an easy flirtation opens the doors of bisexuality possibility. Dracula, in all his blonde, chiseled glory, clearly does not discriminate. He just wants to find a companion to love him in a very human way.
By the time the story heads off a doomed ship and back to the shores of London, most of the cast has already played double or even triple duty. Lucy snoops at a washed-up manifest that details six coffins filled with Transylvanian dirt, and no one bats an eye when Dracula shows up at the sole survivor of the tragedy. As Dracula attempts to charge Lucy and steal her away from Jonathan, Mina (Arnie Burton) practically throws herself at the count’s feet. “Your table scraps will seem like a banquet to me,” she happily chides, despite Dracula begrudgingly agreeing to share a dance with her. Filling out the roster of major characters are Mina and Lucy’s father, Dr. Westfeldt (Ellen Harvey), who allows uses his own mental patients as his personal servants; acclaimed German female vampire hunter Jean Van Helsing (also Burton); and Renfield (also Harvey), the strait-jacket wearing lispy madman soon recruited by Dracula to do his bidding.
Impressive period-piece costumes and wigs immediately jump out at the viewer, alongside creative stage design that utilizes the space to its maximum advantage. Naturally, this translates to plenty of stage trickery, lightning-fast costume changes, and some seriously suggestive sexual situations. This cleverly-scripted play feels like a mixture of classic Dracula with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The gender-swapped roles and tongue-in-cheek tone are a pleasure to watch. Something new always lurks just around the corner, making for an impressively fast-paced record of laughs-per-minute.
The general character and structure of Bram Stoker’s book remains intact, albeit with countless major changes and excisions. After all, this is a ninety-minute comedy without an intermission, so much of the fat has been trimmed to make for a concise, engaging watch that bursts with creativity. Cast chemistry, vital to a show this intimate and hilarious, is unrelentingly perfect. While each member of the ensemble has their chance to shine, Arnie Burton and Ellen Harvey impress with two meaty roles each. Their characters are so vastly different that the show allows them to lean into the jarring nature of the transformations in an outrageously fun kind of way. Also notable is Dracula himself, who makes every second on stage count. James Daly notably plays just the one role, and does so in style.
There is little doubt here that Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors will eventually make its way onto Broadway at large. With all the charms of a proper big-budget production, quirky humor, splendid eye candy, queer-positive messaging, and a game cast to boot, the comedic stylings are as irresistible as Dracula’s hypnotic eyes. For fans of vampire lore or clever parodies and blood types of all ages, shapes, and sizes, Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors will be screaming your name for years to come.
Sink your teeth into Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors, now playing off-Broadway at New World Stages in New York City.