Dracula in French? And Canadian French to boot? And with songs! Yes, all that and more is available to those who enjoy a delightful shiver on seeing a bat’s silhouette on the moon, while nights are chill and days may bring more freezing rain or snow. And it’s on DVD, “inspiré du roman de Bram Stoker, le spectacle musical Dracula: Entre L’Amour et La Mort.” Yes, the musical version of Dracula -- in French. Actually produced in Quebec where it ran from January 13 to December 16 2006 (with the DVD version filmed in November that year according to the credits, although the DVD itself didn’t come out until 2008), it has since been performed as well in France and elsewhere. Translated as “Dracula: Between Love and Death,” it was created by Bruno Pelletier (who also plays the part of Dracula) with music by Simon Leclerc and lyrics by Roger Tabra.
But there is a down side, it’s only available in French (and québécois to boot, as well as a few lines in Ukrainian) with -- at least in the only version of it I’ve been able to find -- no English subtitles, and as for me the title is about as far as my language skills are going take me. So what I’ll offer here may be not so much a review as an outline of differences between it and the plot of Bram Stoker’s novel, so one can follow it just enjoying the stagecraft and music. And I will say that, even without a translation, the music is great, the dancing and acting, the costumes and settings all great too. For me at least -- but then I like things like les trois vampiresses (a.k.a., in the movies, the “Brides of Dracula”) done up BDSM style with Medusa-like headdresses!
Also the plot should be sufficiently familiar that it can be followed well enough without really knowing the words. There are some variations from Stoker, though, to be aware of (the large puppet-creature that starts it off, by the way, is not a character per se but rather a sort of announcer-commentator). It follows the conceit of, for example, Francis Ford Coppola’s movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula in seeing the vampire as a Vlad Tepes extension whose wife has been lost and who discovers, 500 years later, Mina Murray as a kind of soul-descendant, thus setting up a major conflict as being between Dracula and Mina’s husband-to-be Jonathan Harker; Lucy in this version is Van Helsing’s daughter (Van Helsing, seen as very religious, has tried to keep her from the evils of the world, but she rebels with results that are not good); Renfield as a drug addict plays a more modern sort of madman; other parts are thus eliminated but the three vampire women have their roles expanded to almost an equivalent of the three Fates, at some moments standing in in a way as a kind of Greek chorus. So one part is literal, a telling of a variant of the original novel in music, but another level is allegorical taking in the larger themes of good and evil, weakness and strength, love and pain and death, and ultimately redemption. And it is ultimately Mina who must choose, whereas the original “Elhemina,” as the warlord Dracula’s promised bride, is the one who was cursed from the beginning and so had “turned” him.
And then there’s one thing more. While I haven’t been able yet to find a subtitled version, I have found a blog in which much of the libretto has been translated to English on a song by song basis, though not necessarily in production order. So for die-hards like me, one can copy the songs out (with a warning that, even as of now, it may still not be entirely complete), re-shuffle them as needed into act and scene order, and watch the show with lyrics in hand to glance at as one will. And so I’ve provided a link below.
However I will recommend for a first look, especially as Valentine’s Day approaches with appropriate spirituous refreshments on hand (or even if not -- hot dark chocolate is nice with whipped cream and optional sprinkles on top, and mulled cider is excellent, spiked or otherwise), don’t worry about the actual words. You know the story. So just sit back with a special friend, relax, and enjoy.
James Dorr is a short story writer and poet working largely in horror and dark fantasy with occasional forays into mystery and science fiction. His latest collection, THE TEARS OF ISIS, was released by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing in May 2013, joining two earlier collections from Dark Regions Press, STRANGE MISTRESSES: TALES OF WONDER AND ROMANCE and DARKER LOVES: TALES OF MYSTERY AND REGRET, as well as his all-poetry, all-vampire VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE) from Sam’s Dot/White Cat. His own cat, Wednesday (for Wednesday Addams of the TV show THE ADDAMS FAMILY), is more a dark gray herself and spends her days (when she’s not asleep) slinking about Dorr’s fairly extensive DVD and VHS collection.