Casa Loma makes a perfect setting for Brant Theatre’s re-imagining of Dracula
Just in time for Valentine’s Day – a love story that “has crossed oceans of time to find you”, set in no better backdrop than Toronto’s own castle, Casa Loma. It is dark, gothic and eternally beautiful; it is the story of Dracula re-imagined by Sharyl Hudson for Brant Theatre Workshops. Hudson takes the classic Bram Stoker masterpiece and brings it to life utilizing the stunning rooms of the first and second floor of Casa Loma.
As a long-time fan of the traditional vampire story, one that the literary geniuses of Bram Stoker and Anne Rice breathed life into, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to attend this performance. The perfect accompaniment would be to attend this performance at Casa Loma, an attraction I had only previously gone to once when I was a lot younger and which my boyfriend Bob hadn’t seen before.
The play follows Bram Stoker’s novel almost perfectly. It’s the story of Prince Vlad Dracul, a Romanian warlord who renounces God and the Church after his beloved wife commits suicide at the wrongful news of his death. He is reborn a vampire and many years later is captivated and enthralled by a woman, Mina Harker, who he is certain is his wife reincarnated. In order to bring his love into his eternal existence, he sets upon separating Mina from her own true love Jonathan Harker, a young lawyer, by first calling him away to Transylvania and imprisoning him then commencing on a path of seduction and terror to win Mina over.
A good portion of the story is told over a series of flashbacks in the form of letters and journal entries from both Mina and Jonathan, expertly and seamlessly brought to life by this incredible cast. The cast in question is a star-studded ensemble that includes Paul Amato as Professor Van Helsing, John Tench as Dracula, Brock Johnson as Doctor Seward, among others.
I must say hats off to this entire cast who throw themselves into this performance in many ways. Not only is the performance highly and physically active with much of the cast running around to make cues throughout the rooms and halls with some getting shot at and also having to deal with that odd element of ushering the crowd from room to room, but as well performing operatic songs both accompanied and a cappella of a calibre I haven’t heard in a long time. The songs written for the show by Bill Sewers are remarkable, captivating and incredibly haunting. A few standout vocal performances include Emily Wick (who plays Lucy Westenra), Elizabeth Rose-Moriss (as Mina), and Dracula’s Brides (Heather Chwastiak, Chrissi Chau, and Charly Buck).
Considering the full scope of the performance, I have to mention a bit of the staging elements that I felt could have been tighter. During the opening and closing scenes done in the parlour, with the cast in different parts of the room, often behind the crowd, it was a bit difficult to hear the dialogue and slight microphone amplification could have helped. Bear in mind that as you travel through the castle during the performance, your standing position in the different rooms (and you will be standing throughout a good portion of the show) may determine how well you see the performance.
It’s a theatrical experience unlike any you’ve experienced before. A classic story brought to life in a setting that is surreal – bringing you right into heart of the story, this rendition of Dracula is not one you will soon forget. For a truly unique Valentine’s Day experience, make this performance part of your evening.
– Dracula: A Love Story is playing at Casa Loma (1 Austin Terrace) on February 3-4, 10 and 13-14.
– A special Valentine’s Day package is included with the shows on February 13 and 14, with the addition of champagne and Carpathian chocolate fountain.
– Tickets are $34 and $66 for the Valentine’s Day special and can be purchased by calling 647-725-1822.
Photo of Paul Amato as Professor Van Helsing by Sharyl Hudson