"Dracula . . . the Musical?", currently being staged at the Spotlighters Theatre, is a cute cartoon of a show. A melodramatic parody of the old story about the bloodthirsty count from Transylvania seeking new prey in the English countryside, this version is purely cornfed with laughable lyrics and lightweight music.
The work is also a burlesque of the mystery play form. Playwright Rick Abbot has added a couple of new characters and deleted others. A saucy maid named Nelly jokes with the audience in an overly long prologue. A bouncy, bubble-headed blond dubbed Bubu Padoop flaunts her hourglass figure and flirts with every available man.
The action takes place in Dr. Seward's sanitarium, where the favorite "psychopathic gink" is Renfield, a weird fellow who has an insatiable taste for bugs and who hops around like a rotund chimpanzee.
Usually quiet and obedient he has a special quirk: breaking into compulsive song and frenzied gypsy dance -- in which he leads the cast -- at the slightest hint of any place he has visited in the world. This routine is repeated throughout the play and always gets a chuckle.
Seward's daughter, Mina, is mourning the disappearance of her fiance, Jonathan Harker. But as the play opens everyone is having a good time singing and drinking when Dr. Van Helsing appears to warn them that the vampire count is living next door. Suddenly all experience cold, darkness and doom.
They run frantically for the garlic -- a sure vampire deterrent -- but, alas, there is none in the house.
The major flaw in this production is the huge couch and large table behind it that director Rick Hammontree has chosen to place dead center on the small arena stage. The actors must struggle around this cumbersome furniture to enact their song-and-dance numbers and important love scenes, which should be played center stage.
Accompanying the melodramatic action is Jane Rubak on the synthesizer. She does a dandy job playing a variety of musical moods.
However, this production cries out for the use of special, spooky effects, which can be done with lights and appropriate musical underscoring.
Most of the actors employ the necessary broad satirical technique with the exception of James Farrier as Dr. Seward and Ann Frith as his wife who mar the breezy pace with their flat, deadpan delivery.
Paul Nicholas delights as the not so nefarious count. His comical, tongue-in-cheek takeoff on Bela Lugosi is irresistible. Another funny man is Mike Moran as the irrepressible Renfield (although Moran has a tendency to sometimes overdo).
Mandry Kriss convinces as a wide-eyed, foolish Mina and Allison Adams is amusing as the sexy, baby-talking siren. Mary Monet as the impudent maid is believable but she is too slow and too low-key in her opening sequence.
As the vampire sleuth, Van Helsing, Tom Stabile plays the role more like a terrier yapping at Dracula's heels rather than the masterful, zealous bloodhound hot on the trail.
This fairly entertaining production of "Dracula . . . the Musical?" runs through Oct. 28.
The choreography by Todd Van Hackett and the spirited performances of Kim Eileen Tuvin and Rhonda Perry are the best things about the musical comedy "Sweet Charity," now at the Towsontowne Dinner Theatre.
The usually hilarious yet poignant story of an endearing, big-hearted "lady of the evening" (book by Neil Simon, music by Cy Coleman) is diminished by the lackluster, prosaic performance of Laurie Lynn Sentman, who is miscast in the title role.
Sentman, who has modest singing and dancing talent, offers only a superficial, one-level interpretation of this multidimensional role. Mark Briner as Charity's main love interest gives an inept, awkward performance of the naive, puritanical character.
Directed by Todd Starkey, the show lacks vitality and exuberance, the pace drags and the comedy timing and performing energy is so slow the wonderful humor is lost.
NOTEWORTHY: Overlooked in the Oct. 4 review of Dundalk Community Theatre's production of "The Unexpected Guest" was a well-deserved mention of the fine paneled set designed by Marc W. Smith.