HAVE A CUP OF JOE WITH JOE – Raise the Stakes At Castle Drac, Everyone Is Welcome
This past summer, it finally happened. I lost part of my “cultural virginity” when I took a day trip to Stratford’s Avon Theatre and, for the first time in my 65 years, experienced “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I’m ashamed to say it took me this long to finally see this 43 year old cult classic, but what a love affair I had with it that afternoon in Stratford!
I share this with you because if you’ve been a fan of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” you’re in for a real treat this month. A brand new, hot off the press musical in the same ilk as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is staging its world premiere here at the Olde Walkerville Theatre, 1564 Wyandotte Street East in Windsor.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome “Raise the Stakes” to our city!
In this “Mature Content” for ages 19 and over only show, you will be treated to a hilarious, revisionist (and very gay and campy) portrayal of Bram Stoker’s, “Dracula.”
The original characters of Dracula remain, but are turned on their head in this presentation. Toronto area theatre critics and aficionados promise, “If you loved ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ you’re going to love ‘Raise the Stakes’.”
“Raise the Stakes” is the brainchild of theatre veterans, Taylor Lavigne and Mike Karloff.
Lavigne was born on the east coast and is now an actor in Toronto with a number of national tours under his belt. He is admittedly a “Dracula” nerd with an intense interest in vampires.
He started the script in 2015 and then contacted his good friend and Windsor native, Karloff, back in Windsor, to gauge his interest in the script.
Karloff is an Instructor and Musical Director with the Department of Music Theatre Performance at St. Clair College and faculty member with the University of Windsor School of Music. He was more than intrigued with Lavigne’s script — and the rest, as they say, — is history.“Raise the Stakes” features a cast of 16 performers, evenly split with talent from Toronto and Windsor.
The very flamboyant Dracula, adorned with a glitter cape, is played by Windsor native, Pierre Angelo Bayuga, who, in addition to performing locally in our region, has spent time in Toronto and toured North America and Europe with roles in “RENT” and “Miss Saigon.”
Bayuga is thrilled to be playing the lead in his hometown as part of this play’s world premiere: “I’ve always been drawn to Dracula — he’s always been this very sexual being to me and the idea that in ‘Raise the Stakes’ he’s just SO full on gay and playful makes me anxious to be able to really sink my teeth into him!”
How did Windsor end up being the city to showcase the world premiere?
As Lavigne explains, “Back in 2017 — as a cast member of Starvox Entertainment’s production of ‘Cannibal! The Musical’ — they had a technical week at Windsor’s Capitol Theatre before embarking on their U.S. tour. They opened the doors to free dress rehearsals on the weekend. “Cannibal! The Musical” shares the same genre as “Raise The Stakes,” a comedic horror mash-up and the patrons literally ‘ate it up’.” Karloff adds, “Windsor has such a vibrant theatre community with a very deep talent pool to help us grow this play. There’ll be many opportunities for Windsor theatre students to get invaluable experience working backstage.”
Karloff is excited to be using the historic Olde Walkerville Theatre. He believes “the vibe is so perfect there; the look of the theatre and the intimacy of the stage is amazing.”
Lavigne says among their sets, “we have this huge, multi-tiered Dracula Castle with parts in motion and things moving in and out. The stage couldn’t be more perfect for what we have designed. The first thing people will see when they enter the theatre is the castle, and they will be blown away.”
The story is narrated by four human gargoyles who seldom agree with one another. Some of the gargoyle actors have extensive Second City and Improv experience, which should make it interesting to listen to what they have to say!
Lavigne describes the show as “filled with blood, camp, gore, amazing musical numbers and dance routines, love stories and physical battles — and a possible cameo appearance by Dr. Frankenfurter.”
Karloff encourages the audience to see “there is also a lot of heart in the story, and while having fun with the story, to see the deeper themes and messages that it’s ok for men to be vulnerable; it’s ok for women to be strong; it’s ok to be gay. ‘At Castle Drac, everyone is welcome’.”
The world premiere takes place October 18 at 8 p.m. The remaining show dates are: October 19 & 20 at 8 p.m.; October 21 at 2 p.m. (matinee); October 25, 26, & 27 at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online and you can see the latest news about the production on their Facebook page.
In closing, this show is the perfect lead-in to the ghoulish nights ahead of Halloween. Patrons are encouraged to attend in costumes adorned with boas, sequins and lots and lots of glitter. Come as Dracula characters, or anything else to express yourself. Use your imagination . . .