Picture Brooklyn Park transformed into 1897 Transylvania, where the desperate and aging Count
Dracula seeks title to a home in a new land, one full of trees and fresh blood as he prepares his sinister
move to England. Set against a voluptuous musical score, Musical Artists Theatreâ€™s latest original
play, Dracula, The Musical, held an audience spellbound on Memorial Day weekend.
For two reasons, Musical Artists Theatre stands apart from other community theater companies around
the Bay. First, itâ€™s dedicated to musical theater. Any number of local companies put on musicals at
least from time to time; some, such as dinner theaters, deal exclusively in the musical form. But Musical
Artists Theatre, whose goal is to produce fresh, original musical theater, makes innovation standard fare.
â€œThere are theaters that specialize in doing new plays, and some theaters that do a few new plays,â
€� says Michael Hulett, Draculaâ€™s director and playwright.
â€œBut think about where you see new musicals â€” itâ€™s not on Broadway, thatâ€™s for sure. Itâ
€™s hard to find places to stage a new musical nationally, in part because itâ€™s so expensive to put
Musical Artists Theatre is that hard-to-find place.
Some of their shows, like last springâ€™s Rags to Riches, set against Scott Joplinâ€™s music, have
been world premieres. Others, like Dracula, have been produced once or a handful of times before.
Shows are chosen in accord with the companyâ€™s vision of developing original musicals, showcasing
contemporary American works and mounting innovative productions of classics. Some 50 playwrights
and composers from around the country have already submitted their original works to Musical Artists
Here actors, directors and composers get to break new ground. Which is what Hulett did with Dracula,
Musical Artists Theatre is in its second year at the Chesapeake Arts Center in Brooklyn Park, and
Dracula, The Musical is its fifth production. (Previous shows include A Christmas Carol, twice,
Dreamland and Rags to Riches, a musical set to music by Scott Joplin.) All have been well received,
with enthusiastic reviews and box-office receipts that keep the company operating in the black.
With a lush musical score, multi-faceted characters, plenty of humor, dread and suspense and strikingly
fine performances by the cast, Dracula, The Musical continues that success. Particular standouts are
Peggy Dorsey as Mina, Ruth Hulett as Lucy and Greg Coale as Mr. Renfield. Coale delivered a
fabulously warped and anguished madman, and Hulett and Dorsey both demonstrated striking theatrical
and musical technique and range playing characters who are far more complex than the average run of
The company fills a need among theater-goers as well as theater-artists. Whether the draw is its past
successful shows or Transylvaniaâ€™s infamous count, a near-capacity crowd filled the 100-person
studio theater on the playâ€™s second night. (Some shows, such as the annual A Christmas Carol, play
on Chesapeake Arts Centerâ€™s full-size proscenium stage, with a seating capacity of 900.) It may help
that Musical Artists Theatreâ€™s status as resident theater company at Chesapeake Arts Center helps
keep ticket prices low enough â€” $12 to $15 for Dracula â€” to bring in new blood in the form of
â€œWelcome to my house. Enter freely and of your own will,â€� intones Count Dracula. If itâ€™s that
or The Matrix at a local cinema for $8, why not take a chance on a live show? The Matrix will still be
available on DVD long after this innovative theatrical moment is lost in time.
â€” April Falcon Doss
|Volume XI, Issue 22 ~ May 29 - June 4, 2003
|â€˜Welcome to My House,â€™ Invites Count Dracula
Come in and youâ€™ll get a taste of original musical theate