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Laughs, screams to fill Geyer stage

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 9:15 a.m.
For The Independent-Observer
The cast of 'Dracula: The Musical' rehearse a scene from the show that opens tonight at the Geyer Performing Arts Center and runs through Oct. 14. Pictured, laying down, Alyssa Johnson, 17, of Scottdale as Mina. Standing, from left to right, Paul Appleby of Uniontown as Boris, Lisa Earnesty of Connellsville as Sophie, Luana Catlett of Smithfield as Nelly, Brian Howard of Ruffsdale as Van Helsing and Ben Pimental of Mt. Pleasant as Count Dracula. Linda Harkcom | For The Independent-Observer

The Geyer Performing Arts Center will be a place for laughs and screams this weekend when “Dracula: The Musical” takes to the stage.

John Cunnard decided to take on the show as director earlier this year after it was suggested to him by Ron Bronson, board president of Actors and Artists of Fayette County.

“AAFC has done the show two other times at the theater, but it has been many years since the last time it was done,” said Cunnard, who said he is impressed with the show and its history.

“At its New York City premiere, patrons stood in line in a blizzard for tickets. At its Australian premiere, every seat for every performance was sold,” he said.

The show has just one set and takes place in the home of Dr. Sam Seward family madhouse in the 1800s.

A newcomer to the neighborhood, Count Dracula is moving next door to the Seward family who thinks he is royalty. It isn't until Dr. Van Helsing comes to try to warn them that they even know that Dracula is a vampire.

“It take some convincing from him, for the family to finally realize that,” Cunnard said. “The show only uses piano music and it's very campy funny.”

He added the show is and appropriate for all ages.

“It is a funny show that has been made even more so because the cast has ad-libbed even more than the script calls for,” Cunnard said.

Ben Pimental of Mt. Pleasant will take on the role of Dracula and Martha Oliver is the stage director for the show. She and Cunnard have worked together before, co-directing Hotel Frankenstein that won best show at the Tottie Awards in 2010.

Cunnard said one of the challenges of putting the show together was filling a cast when most of the actors are either going back to school or college or have work commitments, making a schedule that works for the cast to have as many members there as possible.

“We weren't allowed to rehearse until eight weeks before the show and we didn't even get the music until six weeks before the show, so it was a lot of cramming and learning the music fast,” he said, adding that this is a funny and not too scary way to start the Halloween season.

A dinner-theater option is available for $25 during the show that takes place tonight, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Without the dinner-theater option, tickets are $12 apiece. Cunnard said Tottie Kiefer introduced him to the theater in 1988 and he has been involved in many, many shows since then.

“My grandfather, Wade Weaver, performed on the stage there in the early 1900s and I know it makes my mother proud to see me carry on his desire of performing live theater,” he said.

Cunnard said he's always surprised to hear from people that live in the area that they have never saw a show at the theater.

“So, it's my hope to get people to come see Dracula: The Musical and open their eyes to the wonderful world of live theater,” he said.

Rachel Basinger is a freelance writer.