The stake through the heart of the Frank Wildhorn-Christopher Hampton-Don Black musical was low ticket sales. Despite the sexy title, the show hovered at around 55 percent of capacity for several weeks at the Belasco theatre this fall.
The loss to producers is in the millions. The show was greeted with unfriendly reviews but had its share of admirers among those who are passionate about the work of pop composer Wildhorn, who also penned Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Civil War.
News surfaced in recent weeks that Wildhorn will likely produce a concept album of his score but won't use the Broadway cast due to the prohibitive union cost. The composer wants the show to have a calling card for future productions, and a record label (and money) could not be found to support a Broadway cast recording.
Next up at the Belasco is a production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, starring Denzel Washington.
Director McAnuff does have a smash Broadway show this season: He directed the Billy Crystal solo play/standup event, 700 Sundays. *
Tom Hewitt (The Rocky Horror Show) stars in the title role as Dracula, with Melissa Errico and Kelli O'Hara as his sexy Victorian quarry, Mina and Lucy, respectively. Book and lyrics are co-written by Christopher Hampton (Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Sunset Blvd.) and Don Black (Aspects of Love, Sunset Blvd.).
Dracula also features Don Stephenson as Renfield, Darren Ritchie as Jonathan Harker, Kelli O'Hara as Lucy Westenra, Chris Hoch as Arthur Holmwood, Bart Shatto as Quincey Morris, Shonn Wiley as Jack Seward and Stephen McKinley Henderson as Abraham Van Helsing, with Celina Carvajal, Melissa Fagan, Jenifer Foote, Anthony Holds, Pamela Jordan, Elizabeth Loyacano, Tracy Miller, Graham Rowat, Megan Sikora and Chuck Wagner.
(Kelli O'Hara was recently announced to appear in the Broadway musical, The Light in the Piazza.)
Choreography is by Mindy Cooper, with musical direction by conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos. Orchestrations are by Doug Besterman. Designers are Heidi Ettinger (scenic), Catherine Zuber (costume), Howell Binkley (lighting) and Acme Sound Partners (sound).
Designer Ettinger is remembered for her Tony-winning work designing the physical worlds for the Broadway musicals The Secret Garden and Big River.
Dracula, The Musical is produced on Broadway by Dodger Stage Holding and Joop van den Ende, in association with Clear Channel Entertainment.
The 1897 story of an Eastern European vampire with a taste for pale English flesh was born again Aug. 19, 2004, when Dracula the Musical opened following previews since July 30.
The musical is inspired by Irishman Bram Stoker's gothic novel, "Dracula," and veers from the book somewhat to create fresh romance and new tensions along the way. Purists who know the book and other movie versions will be especially interested in the musical's surprise ending.
"I never thought the end of the novel was terribly strong," Tony Award-winner McAnuff (The Who's Tommy, Big River) told Playbill On-Line. "That was a real dilemma for us. I would even go so far to say almost the last third [of the book is weak]: The journey toward Castle Dracula, it just didn't have what we needed for a climax for this story. I think the end of the novel is one of those places where he ran out of steam. I don't think he knew how to wrap it up. For us, Mina represents death and freedom and love - I am reasonably pleased with [our ending] although I wouldn't be surprised if it were controversial."
Composer Wildhorn is no stranger to popular pulp: He found enormous personal success writing the score to the violent thriller Jekyll & Hyde, seen regionally, on Broadway and around the world.
Dracula the Musical had a world premiere developmental run at the La Jolla Playhouse in California in 2001. About half the score has changed since then, McAnuff said.
"[With this story], you tend to get into slower tempo/minor key stuff fairly easily and we've gone in a very different direction this time around," the director said.
How is the pop musical different than the novel?
"In the novel, Dracula is very much a predator, lower down the food chain, a dark force that comes out of the East, but there is a no real connection between Mina and Dracula," McAnuff explained. "This clearly screamed to have a great love story in it. That great love story is really not there in the novel. There is a love story, but it's really between all of the men and Mina after Lucy's death. It was very clear, after doing it in La Jolla, we needed a strong spine for the story: Dracula goes after Lucy first, then she disappears, and Mina dominates the second act. We learned we had to go back, dramaturgically, and strengthen that bond."
(The novel is told in journal entries and letters and has remained an international best seller over the last century.)
Fans of the Stoker classic about vampires found that the musical boasted cinematic effects, sensuous video projection, an art nouveau design by Heidi Ettinger and flying blood suckers, courtesy of the respected special effects company Flying by Foy, of Peter Pan fame. "Aerial staging" is by Rob Besserer.
During previews, producers announced that, starting Aug. 25, the talked-about nudity of the show's leading ladies would not be seen at matinees, apparently as a concession by producers to attract family audiences. However, midday Aug. 19, a press statement reversed that stance, saying, "The producers of Dracula on Broadway, have announced that the PG-13 status of the new musical will apply to all performances. The G-rated version of the Dracula, which was planned for certain matinees, will disappear."