We love our vampires, from Barnabas Collins to Eddie Munster, but the greatest un-dead demon of all has to be Count Dracula, from Bram Stoker’s gothic novel.
“I didn’t sleep in my Dracula outfit, but it’s tiring being a vampire,” says Jonathan Sharp, the star of California Ballet’s Dracula that swoops into the Civic Theatre this weekend.
“There are so many levels and platforms,” he said, and I climb that staircase dozens of times, so yes, it’s not easy being the Count. The seduction and the fangs are the easy part. A dentist made a retainer for me, with the two fangs attached.”
Sharp trained at New York City Ballet, and later Pennsylvania and Boston Ballets. He also worked on Broadway and television.
“I worked on soap operas,” he said, “I did ‘Another World,’ and now I’m working in the underworld.”
Sharp also teaches in Idyllwild, but there is no school for learning how to whip that creepy cape with the blood-red lining.
“I’m inspired by Stoker, of course, and the old film with Bela Lugosi,” he said. “I looked at his [Lugosi’s]crafting, and his words are stilted because he didn’t speak English, really. He did silent movies, and this ballet is a lot like a silent movie. There’s no dialogue, but lots of creepy sounds, and screams.”
Lugosi’s famous line “I vant to suck your blood,” in his infamous Slavic accent, appears in the film Dracula that came out in 1933. Choreographer Charles Bennett created one of the first ballet versions for California Ballet in 1987. That year, a hearse pulled up in front of the Fox Theater, which is now Symphony Hall. A creepy guy dressed as Dracula stepped out, and soon another hearse stopped. A woman dressed as one of his ghostly brides appeared.
Sharp says people should attend in costumes.
“I played a vampire on Broadway,” he said, “it was a musical and a whole society of people showed up in extreme costumes, and I wondered if they dressed that way all of the time, and they turned the show into a party.”
For this show, Sharp says leave the kids at home, and be ready for scary, sexy drama.
“Dracula is a legend, and he helped people deal with their fears, the wolves, and predators,” said Sharp. “And lots of people are attracted to the ‘bad boy,’ the predator. In this dance, Lucy is in love with a nice guy, but she’s intoxicated by the older powerful man – me. Yes, he seduces her.”
The sound track is the life blood of the story, says Sharp. Wind blowing, eerie lullabies, water dripping, and horrible screams make your skin crawl.
“There’s no talking, but you might hear me hiss,” said Sharp, “and my brides tell me ‘oh my god, you’re becoming a weird cat.’”
California Ballet’s Dracula runs Saturday at 8 pm. and 5:30 pm. Sunday, Oct. 26, 27, at the Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Avenue.