By Manning Harris

“Oh what grim adventure am I on—am I dreaming?”  So goes the haunting lyrics of 7 Stages’ world premiere production of “Dracula: The Rock Opera,” running through October 14.

This may be the perfect time for a Dracula visitation—and we don’t mean some romantic “Twilight” version with pretty boy vampires that sparkle in the sunlight.  No, we’re talking the Dracula of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, in a presentation of almost Wagnerian sweep, with computer/video vistas that sweep us up the Carpathian mountains to a sinister castle where any chance of  escape seems unlikely at best.

How many plays have you seen that list a Blood Specialist (Chris Brown) in the design credits?

Fear and mistrust seem rampant these days, whether it’s riots and killings in the Mideast,   surreptitious recordings of Presidential candidates, continual accusations, and bleak visions of the future.

“Present fears are less than horrible imaginings,” said Macbeth; so better perhaps to tremble at the fangs of the undead for a couple of hours.  7 Stages obligingly offers us a truly malevolent monster and his minions from which to shrink.

“Dracula: The Rock Opera” is largely the creation of singer/actor/composer Rob Thompson, who plays the title role; but this show is a collaborative effort:  Longtime 7 Stages Artistic Director Del Hamilton has announced that “Dracula” is his swan song in this 34th season, and he is going out with a bloody bang.

“Take some Rock ‘n Rollers from Atlanta’s music scene, grind it up with the city’s killer zombie horror community, marinate for a few years in Atlanta’s most respected experimental theatre and you have ‘Dracula.’”  This sentence is PR copy from the 7 Stages; I didn’t even know Atlanta had a zombie horror community, but I do now.

This is a huge production:  a five-piece rock band (and they are amplified, friends), a 16-member cast, costumes (DeeDee Chmielewski), production design/make-up (Shane Morton), and set design (Oz Dillman) to die for—literally.  In fact, if you sit in the front row, you risk being splattered by blood.  There are fang bites, stakes in the heart, and decapitations.  There is also simulated female nudity with Dracula’s creepy concubines.  Better leave the kids at home.

The show is “sung through,” as they say; it is a rock opera.  Even though there are some great rock voices here, occasionally the band begins to overpower them.  I would imagine they have fine-tuned this by now.  In the interests of full disclosure, I saw a preview performance.

Rob Thompson’s Dracula is brilliant; he is riveting—it’s a totally committed performance.  Also fine are Chris Love as Jonathan Harker; Jeff Langston as Van Helsing; Mina, Naomi Lavender; Lucy, Jessika Cutts; Lucy’s mother, Madeline Brumby.  In addition, there are Rick Atkinson, Jed Drummond, Chaz Pofahl, Shane Morton, Josh Lauder, Andrew McGill, Hannah Rose Broom, Ki Corwell, Wesley Carter, and DeeDee Chmielewski.

In addition to Mr. Thompson, composers are Naomi Lavender, Chris Love, and Sam McPherson.  Justin Welborn assists Mr. Hamilton in direction.  Special mention to Victoria K Warren for her video design.

“Dracula: The Rock Opera” is destined to be a legendary production.  It may not be perfect (what’s perfect?), but it’s what I’d call total theatre.  See it or regret it.

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Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

4 replies on “Theatre Review: ‘Dracula: The Rock Opera’ at 7 Stages”

  1. Rick Atkinson as Renfield stole the show IMO. Can’t take your eyes off him as Renfield with his energy and had the most metal voice. Could totally see him all-out wailing a rock ballad.

    Naomi Lavender brought an ingenue clarity with her voice.

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