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THEATRE LOVERS MUST SEE RAISE THE STAKES

THEATRE LOVERS… YOU MUST SEE RAISE THE STAKES

In the current issue of Biz X Magazine, I’ve written an article (page 42), “At Castle Drac, Everyone is Welcome”. In it, I said, “A brand new, hot off the press called Raise the Stakes, a comedic musical in the same ilk as the “The Rocky Picture Horror Show” is staging its world premiere at The Olde Walkerville Theatre, 1564 Wyandotte Street East in Windsor”.

Photos courtesy of Jen Gurniak

My friends, “Drac is back” in Raise The Stakes in a manner no one could ever have imagined! I attended the opening last night and was literally drained from laughter, shock and joy by the end of the show. Bram Stoker’s characters remain, but not at all like we first learned about them. The original “vampire meets girl” has undergone revisionist history to now be “vampire meets boy”.

In this very adult only, very gay and campy experience, we are led through the revisionist history of Dracula by four speaking gargoyles perched high above the audience on the turret of the massive castle. The four of them feud like Democrats and Republicans over their versions of reality. Local Windsorite, Eric Branget, plays alongside Toronto based comic and actor, Chelsea Jayne Bray, as the narrating gargoyles who appear to have been smoking some weird, funny potion for far too long before Canada just legalized it this week. (By the way, Branget also acts in the famous Rum Runners Tour, here in Windsor). Opposing them are the fastidious and socially proper gargoyles, James Neely and Natalie Culmone, the latter who writes in the Playbill Who’s Who, “I would like to thank my super religious grandmother for staying home for this one.” She ain’t kidding!

Dracula, played by Windsorite and international touring actor, Pierre Angelo Bayuga, returns after a three-hundred-year absence in the ground, with his spectacular glitter cape. He no longer has strong love ambitions for Mina, played by Morganna Marie, but for Jonathan, played by Vincent Perri – a Torontonian actor and filmmaker. But, the real kicker is that though Jonathan is the subject of Drac’s affections, Jonathan’s affections aim toward Mina.

Greg Carruthers does triple duty in his roles, but none better than as Drac’s pet Pookie. Chris Vergara is hilarious doing double duty as Igor, Drac’s hunched back servant and the very sacrilegious Priest. Every character, whether ensemble or in individual roles, absolutely nailed their performances last night.

There are challenging dance scenes (complete with some impressive old time tap dancing) and fighting scenes, all demanding exact and precise timing. Kudos to Krystin Wiklanski, the choreographer, and Jamie Treschak who provided the fight direction.

Perhaps the greatest praise is reserved for Taylor Lavigne, the east coaster with a vampire addiction, who created and wrote this hysterical story and directed it. And Lavigne’s good friend, Mike Karloff of music fame here in Windsor (St. Clair College and University of Windsor) who wrote the musical score with orchestration and excellence to rival some of the best of Broadway. Folks, you are guaranteed to leave the theatre with their infectious tunes and images partying in your head.

Bottom line: I’m usually effusive in my praise of local theatre because we are blessed in this region with some amazing amateur talent. But ‘Raise the Stakes’ takes my enthusiasm to whole new level. These are not amateur writers, composers or actors. These are professionals in every sense of the word, and what they have delivered is worthy of the Toronto Mirvish Theatre Kingdom. Windsor should be honoured to have been selected as the city to host their world premiere.

My friends, do not let this opportunity pass you by. Get out to see one (or more – I am) of their final six performances in the cozy and intimate Olde Walkerville Theatre. Remember, “At Castle Drac, Everyone is Welcome”. And please tell your friends – and drag them along.

The remaining dates are October 19 & 20 at 8pm; October 21 at 2pm; October 25, 26, 27 at 8pm. Tickets are available online or at the box office.