Matt and I saw “Dracula: the Musical” last night. It’s currently in previews and officially opens next week.
I’ve been writing this long, complex entry on what I thought of the show, trying to make some interesting and nuanced points about musical theater in general, tripping over my own brain in the process and tying myself in intellectual knots. I can’t seem to say what I’m trying to say. So I’ll get to the fricking point.
I don’t like Frank Wildhorn shows. They have bad music and boring books and I can’t relate to them in any way.
I think you’re either a Frank Wildhorn person or you’re not. I’m not. Granted, I’ve only seen two of his shows — this and “The Scarlet Pimpernel” (in its revised version). And I actually liked “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” to some degree — I even bought the album because it had a few good tunes — although it wasn’t a good show. I pretty much feel the same way about “Dracula.”
A point about show music. If I like the music to a show, I’ll usually know the first time I hear it. That was the case with “Avenue Q” and “Caroline, or Change.” But I’m usually not willing to say I don’t like a musical score unless I hear it more than once (unless I really dislike it). I guess I like to give it the benefit of the doubt. For instance, when I saw “Wicked,” the music made little impression on me, but after buying and listening to the album I decided I enjoyed it. (I still think the book is bloated, though — the show’s book, I mean, not Maguire’s novel).
Based on the shows I’ve seen, Frank Wildhorn writes bad music. His songs have no structure, no dramatic or emotional component. Some of the tunes are fun to have in your head, but that’s about it. Mostly it’s just faux-operatic emoting, accompanied by a big jumble of synthesized orchestrations. It’s like going on a Disney ride. It doesn’t work for me.
Another problem with the music is one of the problems with the book: I couldn’t relate to any of it. The songs have no entry point for the audience; they don’t invite you in. They just put up a wall and make no attempt to connect with you, and you’re on the other side of it, watching it all happen. It’s lifeless. It’s not a fault of the performers, but of the songs themselves.
I felt the same away about the book. I didn’t care about any of the characters or about what happened. There wasn’t much suspense about anything. A story requires conflict, and there wasn’t any here.
Another thing I disliked about the show was that there was no humor. I like shows with jokes. There are two ways for an audience to express its appreciation of a show: applauding at songs and laughing at jokes. There are no opportunities for the latter.
As far as the acting: Melissa Errico was enjoyable to watch, as were most of the performers. But there’s a character from Texas who has this total Texas accent, and he doesn’t fit in. Perhaps the character is part of Bram Stoker’s original story, but he’s just not going to work in the show unless he’s given some jokes. (Matt made that point.)
One cast member who did make me laugh, unintentionally, was Stephen McKinley Henderson, who played Dr. Abraham Van Helsing. He really needs to work on his Austrian accent, because it’s really bad. He sounded Jamaican. Matt and I both thought so, independently of each other.
So there, I didn’t like the show.
Why does Frank Wildhorn continue to write such crap? I mean, he probably enjoys what he does, and he’s not out there killing babies or anything, so he’s allowed to write crappy musicals if he wants to.
I just don’t understand why he does.