Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s ‘Dracula’ is perfectly spooky

Performed outdoors, it's proof that great art can be done on any stage.

Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s production of Dracula is the perfect Halloween show, even in these scary times. Viewing the performance outdoors, on the grass lot of the future Maryland Theatre for the Performing Arts building, audiences stay masked and far enough away from each other and the stage (bringing their own blankets and folding chairs), yet still enjoy the marvelous dancing, thematic music, and creative lighting. Choreographed by BTM’s late founding Artistic Director Edward Stewart and staged by current Artistic Director Nicole Kelsch, Dracula is a faithful, beautiful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic novel.

Set Designers Alexander Collen and Nicole Kelsch have used the available stage effectively, a small platform against the wall of the lot. A purple curtain at the back pulls back to reveal a coffin, while small tables, candles, and a cot are brought on, as necessary. Smoke effects add to the atmosphere.

Mark McCormack (Dracula) and Emily Brenan (Mina) in ‘Dracula.’ Photo by Joanne Marie Photography.

Emily Brenan gives Mina a youthful innocence. She spins and twirls gracefully, first alone, then with Jonathan (Isaac Martinez), who tenderly embraces her. Pursued by Dracula (Mark McCormack), she dances away from him, until he catches her, forcing her on her knees. Under his control she writhes in emotion, extending her arms in agony, and the final scene has her contorting in amazing ways while on the floor.

Isaac Martinez plays Jonathan with great physicality, communicating emotion through his body. Pursued and seduced by Dracula’s Brides (Victoria Siracusa, Sarah Jung, Karissa Kralik, and Lauren Martinez), he leaps across the stage trying to escape them, swaying as they pull him in different directions. After Dracula has kidnapped Mina he jumps in frustration and fear before grappling with Dracula in a beautifully stylized fight. At the end he falls to ground, the pain clear in his body.

Mark McCormack gives Dracula great commanding presence and power. Finding the Brides feeding on Jonathan, he makes an angry gesture, and they withdraw from the stage. He wraps himself in his cape and extends it so that it looks like bat wings. He leaps across the stage, twirling and spinning. He lifts Mina and Lucy (Cindy Case) over his head, dipping them before “biting” them, and carries off Mina while she extends her leg. He plays with the Brides, spinning them and having them embrace him before pushing them away. In the fight with Jonathan he throws him across the stage.

Cindy Case gives a sensuality to Lucy. Even before encountering Dracula she stalks the stage, extending her long legs and slowly moving across the stage. Her duet with Dracula is powerfully physical, entwining her arms and legs with him as he dips and lifts her. It is a wonderfully dramatic seduction.

Victoria Siracusa gives the Lead Bride with great forcefulness, leading Sarah Jung, Karissa Kralik, and Lauren Martinez as the other Brides in taking charge. They pop up behind Jonathan’s bed, grabbing him and pulling him towards them, even stripping off his shirt. They embrace Dracula, grasping him and twirling around him, falling back as he pushes them away. They stoop down low in obedience when he commands them to stop pursuing Jonathan. At the masquerade they move sensually, writhing in passion and victory.

Destiny Billot, Carrie Cornelius, Olivia Fohsz, Hannah Hanson, Sarah Hoffman, Audrey Martin, Ansley Mater, Celia Merritt, Marjorie O’Hearne, Julie Smith, Brenna Sweeney, Madeleine Pautier, and Isabella Warshaw play the Vampire Women with eerie precision. They move like clockwork, slowly, carefully, helping to create an atmosphere of suspense. At the beginning of Act III, they move frenetically, jumping alongside Jonathan as the action speeds up. At the end they return to slow motion, lying on the floor and carefully lifting their legs and heads in unusual moves.

Emily Brenan (Mina) and Mark McCormack (Dracula) in ‘Dracula.’ Photo by Joanne Marie Photography.

River Byrd and Lelan Lewis combine power and gentleness as the Suitors, leaping across the stage and twirling. Caroline Anderson, Lindesy Bell, Amanda Cobb, Anne Gutcher, Cassandra Hope, Clara Molina, Marjorie O’Hearne, Madeleine Pautier, Brenna Sweeney, Madison Sweeney, Rowan Treece, and Catherine Welch give the Masquerade Women a joyfulness as they crowd the stage, spinning and extending.

Costume Designers Karen Kralik and Alyssa Johnson-Taylor have created outfits that help distinguish the character and show their journey. Mina starts out in a purple dress then moves to a white one, like the white dresses of the Brides and Vampire Women. In Act II, the Brides wear silky, black dresses. Dracula wears a black cape and a long white shirt, and at times a demon mask. Lucy wears a long red dress and a red feather headdress at her first appearance, changing into an orange and black dress. The Masquerade Women have red tops and short white skirts, while the Suitors wear black pants and plaid vests.

The lighting effects add to the chilling atmosphere, bathing the stage in purples and reds to highlight the Vampire Women, Brides, and Dracula. The prerecorded music by Goldenthal, Kilar, and Prokofiev reflects the dancing and the story, playful and romantic at times, dramatic and spooky at others. Nicole Kelsch has done a wonderful job staging this production. The dancers navigate the stage and each other perfectly, combining graceful and powerful movements to translate Edward Stewart’s choreography into lovely scenes that tell the frightening, tragic story of Dracula. Ballet Theatre of Maryland is proof that great art can be done on any stage. Go see it and have a spooky time!

Running Time: Approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes, with no intermission.

Dracula plays through October 31, 2020, at the Maryland Theatre for the Performing Arts – 3 Park Place, Suite 4, in Annapolis, MD, and is also available for streaming. For tickets or information on future performances, please visit BTA’s website.


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