Ben Stevenson\'s \"Dracula\" at Texas Ballet Theater

Review: Dracula | Texas Ballet Theater | Bass Performance Hall

Let Us Count the Ways

Texas Ballet Theater serves up a visual and choreographic feast with Ben Stevenson's Dracula. With slideshow.

published Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ever since a series of books and the subsequent movies involving a virtuous vampire swept onto the pop culture scene, all things vampire-related at least reference the overblown and overrated Twilight. Well, consider this the obligatory mention. Now, let’s move on.

Ben Stevenson offers up his take on the vampire mythology as Texas Ballet Theater presents Dracula at Bass Performance Hall. For those expecting the traditional Bram Stoker fare involving Mina, Jonathan, Lucy, etc., this could either be a disappointment or a pleasant surprise. Stevenson retains the mythological characteristics of Stoker’s creation and the basic structure of the tale: Dracula wants girl, girl’s friends hunt Dracula. However, the story is much simplified in favor of creating mood and emotion.

Act I opens in Count Dracula’s (Peter Zweifel) lair high in the mountains with his multitude of undead brides. Thirsty for more blood and another trophy wife, he sends his servant Renfield (Thomas Kilps) to the village for the next victim. Act II takes place in the village at the base of the mountain where Svetlana (Carolyn Judson), the innkeeper’s daughter is celebrating her eighteenth birthday. After accepting a proposal from Frederick (Lucas Priolo), Dracula kidnaps her as his next bride. Act III returns to the crypt as the Count attempts to seduce the new arrival. A team of rescuers arrives to fight off the Count, the brides, and Renfield, finally sealing the fate of the vampires with a rush of sunlight.

This is another chance to see the astonishing artistry of TBT. Stevenson brilliantly weaves classical technique with the sensuality of modern and contemporary for the brides and with the grounded nature of folk dance for the villagers. Kilps as Renfield explodes, scurries about, and almost steals the show, as if someone pressed the fast forward button. Zweifel’s performance as Dracula fills the entirety of the hall, and his intensely suspenseful seduction of his victims completely draws the audience in. Priolo not only demonstrates his usual exciting technical ability, but also proves to be a comical, romantic, yet dashing hero. Judson’s natural delicacy and playfulness fits perfectly with her role as the heroine.

The performances are phenomenal, but the beauty and genius of this ballet comes in the form of the unexpected moments, the unsettling subtleties, and the intriguing ability of the performers to bring the audience into their world.  So if you’re the type who hates spoilers of any kind and loves to be completely surprised, consider this to be a two-thumbs-up, everyone-must-see-this, what-are-you-waiting-for review and stop reading. For the rest of you whose interest is now piqued, read on.

For those familiar with the structure of classical ballet, this might feel like the type of dream where things are mostly the same, but something is not quite right. First, the arrangement and choreographic style of Act I in Dracula’s crypt feels like it belongs later in the ballet, based on general convention. A village scene typically happens at the beginning of a ballet, but appears here in the middle. Stevenson’s composition choices are a little bewildering but just add to the eeriness of the story.

Act II provides the most suspense. The coloring of the scenery, mountainous backdrop, and even the hues of the Eastern European-style folk costumes all remind the audience that even though merry festivities abound, we have been introduced to Dracula and we know he’s coming. We just don’t know when.

The technical feats of the production are shockingly exciting. Dracula and his brides go from floating across the floor to soaring in the air, an effect which always made the audience gasp in surprise. Costume and set designers (Judanna Lynn and Thomas Boyd, respectively) create a visual feast of pattern and texture that transforms the hall into another dimension. The most electrifying moment comes with the pyrotechnics involved in Dracula’s death.

We think the curtain is going to fall on the reunited lovers after the undead have been vanquished and the couple walks off into the sunlight. But Stevenson has one more jolt for us. And it’s the biggest detail left out this review.

You’ll just have to see it to find out.

◊ Note: The cast names mentioned here were for Friday night’s performance, but most of the main characters switch roles throughout the run of the show.

◊ Be sure and click on the slideshow icon below the image at the top of this review, and you can see more than 30 images of the performance, taken by Sharen Bradford of The Dancing Image. Thanks For Reading


Stacey Silverman writes:
Saturday, February 25 at 11:02PM

We were in the audience at the 2:00 PM show. We have been season ticketholders for years and all we can say is WOW. They took it to a whole other level. Stevenson is a master and the entire TBT is a gem. Simply stunning performances by Zweifel, Kilps, Lucas Priolo and my favorite ballerina, Carolyn Judson.

charles bass writes:
Monday, February 27 at 1:57PM

Tom, very nice!!!!

Jimmy Verner writes:
Monday, February 27 at 3:39PM

So it was a pretty good ballet. It started off a little slow – and gross – but things picked up at Oktoberfest with lots of good dancing. Act III was pretty good, too. It took me a while to work out the plot – sicko steals girl then her dad, boyfriend and the guys go get her back with an assist from Priest. It took a lot of dancing to get all that done, but hey, it was a ballet. My grade: B plus

Monday, February 27 at 9:19PM

We were at the Saturday evening performance. Really enjoyed it!! I also brought my young daughter, husband, and mother. My daughter who is twelve has been to many ballets, and I am proud to say she truly enjoys them.

Marie S. writes:
Tuesday, February 28 at 4:21PM

This was a fabulous ballet! When Dracula flew up on the chandelier and began shaking it with dust flying and lights flashing and firing -POW!- I know I wasn't the only person in the audience to scream out loud. How often does a ballet incite THAT reaction!? Svetlana was a lovely dancer, as were all of Dracula's brides in their sheer Bouguereau shades of pale...they appeared as phantoms passing through eachother when dancing across the stage. Renfield was outstanding in his contorted leaps and jumps - fabulous character! Everyone was outstanding and the sets were very impressive. This was by far my favorite ballet performance!

ksp writes:
Saturday, March 31 at 5:42AM

We went to the Saturday 2:00 showing. It was a bit slow and uniteresting. I was really expecting a lot more action and edge of your seat type of show. The repetive dancing was making it hard to sit through the whole thing. Disappointed.

Dates, Prices, & Other Details

View the Article Slideshow

Comment on this Article

Share this article on Social Media
Click or Swipe to close
Let Us Count the Ways
Texas Ballet Theater serves up a visual and choreographic feast with Ben Stevenson's Dracula. With slideshow.
by Cheryl Callon

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :