[Herald Review] ‘Dracula’: Blood, love and a red-haired Jun-su

By Korea Herald

Musical adaptation of vampire love story is full of spectacle, but lacks dramatic clout

  • Published : Jul 24, 2014 - 20:53
  • Updated : Jul 24, 2014 - 20:53
More than two hours before showtime on Wednesday afternoon, Seoul Arts Center’s opera theater was already brimming with people ― predominantly young women.

The kiosk that sells official souvenirs had a long line, although it wasn’t open yet. The manager at a lobby cafe shared how her business was booming thanks to the early birds, many of whom munched on sandwiches and muffins at her shop while waiting for the show to start.

Much of the enthusiasm might be attributed to K-pop group JYJ member Kim Jun-su, who plays the role of blood-sucking Count Dracula in a musical adaptation of the famous vampire story. But the 27-year-old star alone couldn’t have generated all that excitement. 
Kim Jun-su (front, right) plays Count Dracula in the musical “Dracula,” which opened last week at Seoul Arts Center. (OD Musical Company)

Frank Wildhorn’s “Dracula, the Musical” opened here last week amid much anticipation.

Shin Chun-soo, president of OD Musical Company, and the creative team behind his 2004 production of “Jekyll & Hyde,” the first musical composed by Wildhorn, reunited for “Dracula,” aiming to set off a musical boom just like they did a decade ago with “Jekyll.”

At a press conference Tuesday, Shin was apparently buoyed by the positive reception from the audience. He described his work as a brand-new show getting a world premiere rather than just a revival of an existing musical, the 2004 Broadway run of which received scorching criticism.

“This production is special for me. I pushed my creative team to the limits and, of course with the help of an exceptionally talented cast, I think I am satisfied with what I now present to the audience,” he said.

Based on the Gothic horror novel by Bram Stoker, the musical follows vampire Count Dracula, played by Kim in the Wednesday matinee performance, as he lusts for new blood and love.

Set in Europe at the end of the Victorian Age, it begins with the arrival of Jonathan, an earnest London solicitor, at Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, Romania.

Dracula, then aged and decrepit, meets Mina ― Jonathan’s fiancee ― and immediately recognizes that she is the reincarnation of Elizabeth, his love from 400 years ago.

Determined to win her love, Dracula drinks Jonathan’s blood and regains his youth. With the powerful tune “Fresh Blood,” Kim transforms into a red-haired, red-eyed, young Dracula.

The first act aptly builds up the drama toward the impressive finale “Life After Life,” where Lucy, Mina’s friend, falls prey to Dracula’s spell and is reborn as a vampire.

The second act is less convincing ― rather disappointing ― with Mina’s abrupt surrender to Dracula and again an abrupt ending that strays from the novel.

Most memorable is Kim, who evokes a strange charm throughout the show as the infamous vampire.

With a boyish face and slender physique, he’s not the typical charismatic Dracula that people would expect. However, he pulled off impressive performance as a prone-to-necking supernatural creature in front of his prey, but looked only so human in front of Mina, blindly seeking her love.

Opposite Kim, musical actress Jo Jung-eun nailed the role of Mina both in singing and acting.

The set and visual effects do wonders for the musical.

A rotating stage is nothing new these days, but the show pushes the limits of what revolving stage technology can achieve.

It is truly jaw-dropping when four turntables on the stage spin quickly in opposite directions ― two clockwise and the other two counterclockwise ― to create chase scenes. Characters wander around within the spinning sets, running from one to another.

The use of light to create shadows and contrast, often preceding the arrival of Dracula, is impressive, too.

With music written by Wildhorn and lyrics by Christopher Hampton, and directed by David Swan, “Dracula, the Musical” runs until Sept. 5 at Seoul Arts Center.

Veteran musical actor Ryu Jung-han alternates with Kim as Dracula. Jung Sun-ah, who recently played Glinda in “Wicked,” shares the role of Mina with Jo.

Ticket prices range from 50,000 won to 140,000 won. For details, call (02) 580-1300.

By Lee Sun-young (