BWW Review: DRACULA: GOES TO HIGH SCHOOL at Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre
The Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre in Bridgeport, CT, has once again found the right blend and style of comedy, music, dancing, and cultural references to simultaneously entertain adults and children, in an exciting musical called DRACULA: GOES TO HIGH SCHOOL, an original story by Phill Hill, featuring familiar characters and well-known music. Director Lance Anthony continues to bring the best out in his cast, a cast that includes himself as the central antagonist, Frankenstein.
The majority of the music is from the 1950s and 1960s, incorporated smoothly into the storyline, creating the positive vibe of a jukebox musical. "At the Hop," "Johnny B. Goode," "Great Balls of Fire," "One Fine Day," and Chris Montez's "Let's Dance," are among the songs that are performed by the very talented cast whose joy while acting, singing, and dancing radiates forth from the stage, across to the audience that includes children who are clearly having a great time and are excited to participate by shouting out answers whenever the actors break the fourth wall, seeking feedback. The children were even enthusiastic to interact with Frankenstein, the central antagonist. It was particularly amusing watching a table of children dancing in their seats, when an instrumental, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," played during a set change. Previously recorded parts of the "Phantom of the Opera" chromatic note progression, and "Monster Mash" are also played during parts of the show.
Speaking of Transylvania twists, Dracula is the central protagonist. Andrea Pane's portrayal of teenage Dracula smoothly transitions the character from the uncomfortable new student at Monster High, to the more confident love interest of Lucine, who is a likeable vampire convincingly portrayed by Ashley DePascale. The love story between Dracula and Lucine is the happy feel-good type in which they are both totally devoted to each other. The strictly one-sided attraction that Frankenstein has to Lucine is never even remotely a threat to Dracula and Lucine's relationship, even though Frankenstein attempts a bunch of frivolous sabotages that neither impact Lucine's heart, nor Dracula's confidence. This is a refreshingly rare concept in love stories, one that works very well in enhancing the likeability of Dracula and Lucine, both as individuals, and as a couple.
The always entertaining Chelsea Dacey portrays Zurie, who is Lucine's bubbly mummy friend, the student who arranges the school's "Enchantment Under The Ground" dance and wants to be sure that every technical detail goes perfectly. Zurie's amusing reactions and blunt candor throughout the show are brilliantly delivered in the farcical manner that Chelsea Dacey consistently excels in, as an actress.
Taylor Hoffman plays Gloria, a zombie whose lines are a bunch of grunts, yet remain comical each time they are delivered. She suddenly becomes a talented back-up singer on several musical numbers, before dazzling the audience with her amazing singing voice when she takes lead vocals on the Isley Brothers' "Shout."
Mark Joy plays Stiles, the werewolf who is Frankenstein's friend and accomplice, even though Frankenstein tends to take him for granted. He is someone who wants to fit in and make the right choices, asserting his own worth. He provides a positive presence for the Xennial generation with a rousing rendition of the Rembrandts' "I'll Be There For You."
These students are kept in line, to a degree, by their teacher, Professor Ravena, who Karen Hanley brings to life. Her dialogue is highlighted by subtle cheeky remarks that are effectively delivered in a deliberately casual tone that enhances their humor.
References are made to Back to the Future, Carrie, Harry Potter, and Friends.
For the children and teens, positive messages abound. The show encourages forgiving and reconciling with enemies, drowning out darkness with light, and overcoming evil with good, by showing kindness to those who failed to first do the same. Lucine is a positive role model of confidence for young ladies, giving the clear, decisive, consistent, unhesitant, and unmistakable answer of "No," to Frankenstein, when he chronically tries to get her to date him. She follows her heart towards Dracula, rather than chasing popularity with Frankenstein, and in doing such, she maintains the approval of Zurie, her friend who is happy for her, even though Zurie was initially apprehensive about the idea of Lucine even having lunch with Dracula. Dracula does a great job pointing out to Frankenstein that bullying people who are smaller than you is the opposite of courage. The courage to stand up for those who are being bullied is extolled, when Dracula stands up for Lucine, and proceeds to stand up for himself. Lucine, as the love interest of the central male protagonist, is shown to have character and class, shattering archaic negative stereotypes, by finding the guy with the courage to stand up to bullies attractive, while being repelled by the bully, a personality trait that is consistent with every young lady who is worth any decent guy's time.
I highly recommend DRACULA: GOES TO HIGH SCHOOL for the whole family. It is scheduled to continue to run at the Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre, in Bridgeport, CT, until October 29, every Sunday at 1:00 P.M. and 3:30 P.M., on Saturday, October 21 at 12:00 P.M., and on Saturday, October 28 at 12:00 P.M. and 2:30 P.M. You can go to http://dtcab.com/show/dracula/ for tickets.