BWW Review: Texas Ballet Theatre's DRACULA Excels in Storytelling and Drama
As the hot Texas sun starts to cool off, and school buses are back on the traffic-lined roads, one thing is clear: summer is nearly over, and fall is right around the corner. Just as Pumpkin Spice Lattes begin flowing at Starbucks, Texas Ballet Theatre welcomes in the new season with DRACULA, now onstage at the Winspear Opera House, and soon moving to Bass Hall. Though Halloween might still be a few weeks away, this fine company is starting off the celebration with a scare!
As you enter the theatre, the incredible Dallas Symphony Orchestra warms up underneath Winspear's iconic chandelier, both omens of the quality and excitement that await onstage. The music by Franz Liszt, led expertly by Emil de Cou, is fine entertainment on its own, but paired with TBT's accomplished dancers, they are a match made in heaven (or wherever Dracula may be resting.)
Act One begins in the famous Count's crypt, where he and his many wives awake. Dracula's apprentice, Renfield (the energetic and acrobatic Phillip Slocki), presents Dracula with a budding maiden, Flora (danced beautifully by Katelyn Clenaghan). Behind a thick wall of fog, Thomas Boyd's breathtaking scenery and Lisa Miller's extraordinary lighting decorate the stage, as the company sets the tone for the rest of the show with a preamble that, light on storyline, is full of breathtaking movement. Dracula accepts Reinfield's offering with a bite, then flies off as the curtain falls on the first act.Upon the second curtain, we enter a nearby village where a birthday party is in progress. Svetlana (the divine Leticia Oliveria) has just turned eighteen, and her innkeeper father (Tim O'Keef) and his wife (Michelle Taylor) are hosting the event. Frederick (the agile Marlen Alimanov), her suitor, asks her father for her hand in marriage. Frederick and his confidants offer several rousing dances, and his celebratory pas de deux with Svetlana is the high point of the elegant act. But, just as the celebration is coming to a close, Dracula makes an impressive and dramatic entrance in the eleventh hour to seize the birthday bride-to-be. The final act brings the audience into Dracula's dark bedroom, where Flora and the other wives await Dracula's arrival. When he returns with Svetlana, who is to become his next bride, Frederick, Svetlana's father, and the village's priest, attempt to intervene. The three men duel Dracula and his wives, as Svetlana's future is looking dim. The melee ends with a major, show-stopping special effect, which I will not spoil in writing. You will just have to come see it to find out how the story ends. Texas Ballet Theatre is well celebrated for their polished technical dance skills, but storytelling is where the company truly excels. Proving this theory is Carl Coomer in the titular role of Dracula. Mr Coomer, who trained at the Royal Ballet School, and danced with Housing Ballet before joining TBT in 2007, offers a dramatic and deep performance from the moment the curtain rises until the final bow. In fact, it's not immediate that the choreography displays his full talents, but his commitment to the role keeps your eyes on him whenever he's onstage.
Choreography by Ben Stevenson O.B.E. is fresh and exciting, especially in the first and final acts, where dances featuring Dracula's brides send chills straight down your spine. In flowing white gowns, white wigs, and pale makeup, each wife brings a unique element to the show (even if you cannot tell the ladies apart).
DRACULA continues at Winspear Opera House tomorrow, September 11th, through September 13th, and then flies over to Bass Performance Hall October 16th-18th. Tickets are available at www.texasballettheater.org.